Some days there are no words. Or just one word at a time. Not always the right word—the word we needed. On the recording my dad made, his uncle Feliks said ‘En el momento que ocurre, ocurre. La vida transcurre como transcurre.’ Which word did we need? Flowing out, leaving only the husk. We fought about words. In them. Despite them. He remembered none of it. Only the feeling. The drown. The flow.
Words are stone. They do not open. Erode without disappearing. Do not disappear. Reverberate. Hover. Reappear. Erode. Rename. Memory wisps in undulating strands. Threading, hovering, reappearing. Erasing. Sanding. Exposed to the bone.
Swallows shun stone and swoop in elongated spirals. Then disappear. Gauzy stone-colored sky. The air is soft sand. Golondrinas. The moment it happens, it happens. There is no moment without memory. Disappearing. The words will not be expressed. Drowned husks. Life flows as it flows. Gauzy swooping sand. Desdoblaje. Porous and impenetrable. Slips and slips and slips.
The last thing he saw was the four of us—his two children and their beloveds—standing at the foot of the hospital bed in a non-hospital room. He asked us to stand there so he could be looking at us while it happened.
‘Bye-bye’, he said, much as he would have if we were hanging up from a pleasant chat on the phone.
I will write the words that led to his disappearance.
Those stones, the welcoming dirt beneath them.
The words that resulted from his disappearance.
The welcoming dirt beneath.
We have never been here – have never not been – through – we are nothing – are traces – tracings – of the paths that unfold – between – come through – never to rise again – sunlight reflective – of the unspoken againstness – metallic – through it all – pronounced specifically in an unpronounceable way – circuitous unpredictable way – traced ridges – of the unspoken skin – where we have already been.
‘Bye bye’, he said. His tone was more ‘see you later’ than ‘I’ll never see you again.’ Perhaps I should clarify that my agnostic Jewish family does not believe in an afterlife. More ‘I’m ready for this experience’ than ‘please don’t let this be happening.’ Perhaps I should specify that up to the moment he died, my dad was extremely clear that he did not want to die, but even more so did not want to live as his autonomy, dignity, personhood, intellect, and capacity to understand and process his experiences and surroundings were eroded by dementia.
‘Bye bye’, he said, and turned the small plastic wheel that allowed death to circulate into his body. He took a few large breaths, gasped a little, then relaxed completely—probably more completely than I’d ever seen him relax. Then, as he had planned, listening to Bach and looking at us while our mom half-held him, he stopped breathing. Being porous. He stopped living.
Jen/Eleana Hofer (they/ellx) is a poet, translator, social justice interpreter, teacher, facilitator, urban cyclist, and co-founder of the language justice and language experimentation collaborative Antena Aire (2010-2020) and the language justice collective Antena Los Ángeles (2014-2021). Jen/Eleana lives on unceded Tongva land in Northeast Los Angeles, where they teach writing, DIY bookmaking and literary translation, work as Sins Invalid’s Language Justice Coordinator, and support community groups in building equitable communication. They have received support in many forms from many entities, including CantoMundo, the Academy of American Poets, the City of Los Angeles, the NEA, and PEN American Center. They publish poems, translations, and visual-textual works with numerous small presses, including Action Books, Atelos, Counterpath Press, Kenning Editions, Ugly Duckling Presse, and in various DIY/DIT incarnations. More information: www.channeltransmitrepeat.com/.