At The Landing

"I am mooring my rowboat
at the dock of the island called God."
—Anne Sexton
The Awful Rowing Toward God

Against a Keifer pear tree rest shovels and a rope;
the right tools for a rough trade, yet awkward like the dead.
For her the awful rowing’s done; she sleeps within the boat.

In January’s uncertain light, cancer cleared its throat.
Our gaited harmonies now stilled; this early note instead.
Against a Keifer pear tree rest shovels and a rope.

The battle scars from radiation left her body hollowed;
at first a rest, a brief reprieve, but then the solo spread.
Now her awful rowing’s done; she sleeps within the boat.

Our hands touched the hard handles of her pain—a sack of stone
she carried alone. You could see its weight beside her in the bed.
Against a Keifer pear tree rest shovels and a rope.

The room was a galaxy of candles, wedding starlight to bone;
between two breaths she lived and died, sparks arcing in her head.
At last, her awful rowing done; she slept within the boat.

Her fragile body was rubbed with oil, love scattered her with roses;
then closed the pine-mahogany lid, singing what could not be said.
From the Keifer pear tree we took shovels and the rope,
praised her awful rowing done and her sleep within the boat.

September 9, 1994, marks the first anniversary of Ginny Earnest’s death (see "On The Way," by Jim Wallis, December 1993). Those of us who loved Ginny are on a long pilgrimage of grief and celebration. We offer this poem for those of you who walk this particular journey with us and for those who walk a similar one.

The Editors

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1994
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