No funeral. No fuss.
He wanted to go quietly into the night.
But as his analysand I can have my say –
I “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” (1)
By all accounts he was a good man.
Kind, understated, generous.
My accounts of him
Are wordless –
Curling trails and wisps of smoke,
Searching for light.
He impressed all those he touched,
Yet always held to the ordinary way.
Hustling colleagues at a retirement dinner,
(Where he was guest of honour)
For a group photo, he mutters half to himself,
Half to me, “I think I should remove my shoes and socks.”
Fancy a chief guest waving naked toes
In the middle of group shot!
Alarmed, I cautiously ask, “Why?”
“Feet of clay!” the wry reply.
Be not so proud, Thanatos, pitiless offspring of Night,
Unleashing hordes of locust cells,
Laying waste to time and measured landscapes,
For look how he walks, unbent and fearless,
Right into the bosom of the night.
Now in hospital,
That firm clear mind that helped me bear mine,
Flutters like a bird in a fine mesh
Of tissue toxins. Yet as usual
He stays the hour as he always has,
At the end of which, quite spent, he says
His last words to me –
“Now I need to settle in.”
I will never know what he meant,
But in Zen they fondly say a practitioner
Enters deepest meditation –
“Samadhi”, for the last time.
I would like to think that is where he is,
And maybe always was.
this fragrance –
your and gardenias’
These lines, my protest
Against the dying of the light,
Are just a way of groping,
To light a candle for one
Who wanted none.
Perhaps it is our last dialogue,
For he says when we enter night
We enter as nothing but night.
And I say, since we are light,
We enter only ever as light.
Yet when we say we are light, we speak
From a place other than light.
How else could we see the light?
Much as it takes an analyst standing without
To see the light flickering within.
Is it light struggling in the dark?
Or darkness struggling with light?
This is a dialogue I am keen to win.
I do not want him to “go gentle into that good night.” (2)
Yet he wins out.
For without knowing it, my haiku concludes,
At our best we are
In a summer breeze.
That is how he goes
Tracelessly into the night.
1 Thomas, D. (1982) “Do not go gentle into that good night” in “The Poems” Everyman’s Library. London, Melbourne, Toronto.
* From Issue #14, “Psychoanalysis Downunder”, the eJournal of the Australian Psychoanalytical Society.
Shahid Najeeb is a psychiatrist and training psychoanalyst living and practicing in Sydney. He has interests in the relationship between Buddhism and Psychoanalysis on which he has given a number of lectures and also an interest in haiku and photography. But his main interest is in that multidimensional, mysterious and ineffably beautiful thing called life, which he tries to understand through these different lenses.