The Ferryman

Journal of Endings

Dear Yusuf

Grief is all the love you wish you could have given;
The penultimate of our rites
before our own unburden.
Little do you know pain, both wondrous and real
'Til suddenly it knocks you out;
Sat sobbing on a stranger's couch
Before there's time to think
Or even feel.


Dear Yusuf,

I am really trying to say something
But there is a wall of grief that makes words seem trivial.
I’m looking at it now and wondering how to get over it.
Perhaps if I look at it with your eyes:
Filled with wonder, filled with mischief and questions
Eyes that saw all that could be seen by a man in a lifetime of seeing
I might say to you
“I know there is no wall”
And you’d say “of course”,
Or nothing at all
And I’d know exactly what you’d meant.

My friend Yusuf, my brother
My dear brother
I can hear you laughing
Your way was gentle but strong
If you knew how I long to have kissed your forehead
And had you know it
You might have laughed and said
“But you are always with me”

And if you knew how I long to have held your hands
As I sometimes did to warm them
You might have told with words or silence
A different story of warmth
One which starts in the heart and radiates outwards
And through life
And beyond it

Imagine:
I am sitting in your cabin
And you are too
We’re eating nuts
Outside there’s a song bird
The grass is starting to turn green
The lichen is coloured fresh with melt water
The birches are white in the strong sun
And I can breathe.

I look over and you’re sleeping
And I say
“Are you sleeping?”
And you say
“No”
And I say
“Do you mind if I join you?”
And you say
“Ab-so-lute-ly. . .”
And you smack your lips and whisper
“Wonderful”

So I close my eyes
And I know you are close
But Oh Mighty Universe!
I do not want to say goodbye!
Tell me the story one last time!
And you say
“I’m - still - here!”

Dearest Ina
Your Yusuf was right
You are a wild force of nature
And I say this now and forever more
Lest there ever be a doubt
That Yusuf said exactly what he saw
That in plain view, you are a river of light
That you are loved
That it was your bold strength
Your will, your kindness
That kept our Yusuf for so long

You brought him the gift of peace
And against the will of his body
It made him, I think;
It finally all made sense:
Before me, wrapped in a colourful wool blanket
Leaning back in a spindly wooden chair
Old slippers, tight red socks
Dozing like a contented cow
Sat a recently completed human being.

“What more could you possibly ask for?” I teased
“Nothing” he said, slowly smiling that big teeth smile.
And I leant back, closed my eyes again, smacked my lips and
whispered...

“Wonderful” .......................“Wonderful”

Your friend,

Graeme Walker

Written January 2017, published May 2018



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