For the Pennance that Man Taketh of Himselfe Was Not Shewid Me—

To Calais, I thought, to Calais
where I will eat chicken fricaseed
So much in France that if I died
my effects to the king and no one else—
From the bedroom to the kitchen
to the office and up stairs and down
And the doorframe of the bathroom 
and in the tall ship from Dover…
Oh how little I wanted to be there!
Dover, Calais, a chicken waiting 
Fricaseed in the little parlour
facing the king’s portrait, the king 
With his chickens, his tall men
with chicken legs, they call this 
Calais, Calais, Calais, this feeling,
these men, this steaming dinner
If only I could turn this ship around
scorn this scowling shore, forget Calais
Forget this feeling, if I could bow
before some one other than the king
The king and myself and his portrait—

Signs of a stroke. Slurring speech, dizziness, eyes blurring. I keep repeating myself but I have not had a stroke. For a long time this summer I would stand up and feel dizzy and my vision would blur for a few moments, but this is not sign of a stroke although it can be an indication of susceptibility to one. In the car coming back from Pontypool I could not remember the name of something I thought I should remember. I can’t remember it now, but that might be because I spent so long concentrating driving through rains and mist. I couldn’t remember the name of a famous Canadian Literary scholar who had knowingly brought an abuser to the university and placed him in a position where he would be working with vulnerable people. I couldn’t remember the name of a friend we had both seen on Zoom. And now I am reading your book, a book about a man in decline, who is losing his memory. I haven’t had a stroke. 

There are things we all regret. One thing I always regret bringing up, but I do, I think because there is a part of it I am still figuring out and I would like to understand it. Only because for so long I only saw one side, where I was the problem, the only problem (we both agreed on this), and I wanted to be gentle, and generous, and to give more of myself than I should have ever given, and that made things worse. And for the record no one was particularly bad on either side, even though I had every right to be angry and even to be suspicious. But the bad feelings have lingered because I’m just starting to figure that out now, the dynamic, from a position of distance and safety, and because a childhood into which I was forced to rationalize injustice means I feels it more acutely even when it no longer matters. It is a sort of deflection of injustice that is long past. 

“The medieval home was the place of birth and death, and the scene of an unending struggle against squalor and confusion; women’s tasks of feeding, cleansing, and comforting demanded incessant labour and courage, demands from which men were shielded by the supposedly larger responsibilities of the public world. If God relinquished his transcendence to take on human flesh, it was not to step boldly on to the cross as a liberating warrior but to become a cloth hung up to dry, to undergo the ‘feminine’ squalor of blood and water, herring scales, and rain; and one effect of Julian’s writing is to confront the hidden but inescapable horrors of the body and the home.” —A.C. Spearing, introduction to Julian of Norwich’s Revelations of Divine Love