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A Space in the Air by Jon Silkin

“Our rose-linked dissolution.” Indeed.

A Space in the Air by Jon Silkin (1930 to 1997)

The first day he had gone
I barely missed him. I was glad almost he had left
Without a bark or flick of his tail.
I was content he had slipped

Out into the world. I felt,
Without remarking, it was nearly a relief
From his dirty habits. Then, the second
Day I noticed the space

He left behind. A hole
Cut out of the air. And I missed him suddenly,
Missed him almost without knowing
Why it was so. And I grew

Afraid he was dead, expecting death
As something I had grown used to. I was afraid
The clumsy children in the street
Had cut his tail off as

A souvenir of the living and
I did not know what to do. I grew afraid
Somebody had hurt him. I called his name
But the hole in the air remained.

I have grown accustomed to death
Lately. But his absence made me sad.
I do not know how he should do it
But his absence frightened me.

It was not only his death I feared,
Not only his but as if all of those
I loved, as if all those near me
Should suddenly go

Into the hole in the light
And disappear. As if all of them should go
Without barking, without speaking,
Without noticing me there

But go, and going as if
The instrument of pain were a casual thing
To suffer, as if they should suffer so,
Casually and without greatness,

Without purpose even. But just go.
I should be afraid to lose all those friends like this.
I should fear to lose those loves. But mostly
I should fear to lose you.

If you should go
Without affliction, but even so, I should fear
The rent you would make in the air
And the bare howling

Streaming after your naked hair.
I should feel your going down more than my going down.
My own death I hear everyday
More or less

But your death would be something else,
Something else beyond me. It would not be
Your death or my death, love,
But our rose-linked dissolution.

So I feared his going,
His death, not our death, but a hint at our death. And
I shall always fear
The death of those we love as
The hint of your death, love.

By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

2 replies on “A Space in the Air by Jon Silkin”

Wonderful, Thomas. I sought out this poem because my wife daughter and I just returned from out vet’s office where we finally had to “do the good thing” and put our 15 1/2 year old Buckley (Corleone) down. We have been through this four times in the last nearly 30 years, and it never gets any easier. We lived through this increasingly painful to watch period of cognitive and physical decline, loss of bodily functions, and lately yowling and yelping nearly operatically through the night, keeping us all from sleeping. In the last 3 days especially, he could not walk at all, was expressionless in the eyes and his whole affect, and showed nothing else besides the inescapable fact that he was shutting down completely. I had forgotten that this poem by Silkin was about his dog just “disappearing”, but it hardly matters whether his demise was our decision, or his, or fate’s, as with our first dog who inexplicably bolted out the front door when our daughter opened the front door upon coming home from school. That dog was hit by a car driving by an elderly man. Silkin was a great poet of utter simplicity and my first exposure to him was the great Death of a Son, a poem I can hardly get through without tears coming to my eyes. The strange phrasing, the crushing simplicity of the prose, is something the British can do better than we can (assuming you’re from the US) And yeah, as an extra bonus you introduced it with the words “our rose-linked dissolution” Indeed. Yes, those were the words that. coming as and when they did, knocked the win out of me. Thanks again. Bill in New Jersey.

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