Is that our work in the world, to learn to dwell in such not-knowing? But because being here is so much: because everything here apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which is some strange way keeps calling to us. It's a good thing, too, because we need the reminder of how we behaved in the face of something so devastating. The concrete timeline of the memoir wanders, but spends most of its time describing what Doty experienced anger, sadness, guilt, fear through the process of Wally died before his eyes. I know that many deaths are anything but gentle. I lost track of how many times I cried while reading this. Outside it snows and snows, deeper and deeper; we seem to live in a circle of lamplight. All my life I've lived with a future which constantly diminishes, but never vanishes.
They haven't all emerged yet, but new circles tattoo the water, here and there, a coppery red. His prose is as rich and lyrical as his poetry. So far it's pretty great, most notably for its shimmering depictions of natural phenomena ranging from a bat flying in rural Britain to the ocean shores of Provincetown. He is more-or-less confined to bed now, with a few forays up and out in his wheelchair; he is physically quite weak, though alert and responsive, and every day I am grateful he's with me, though I will admit that I also rail and struggle against the limitations his health places upon us. Ripe with vivid imagery, Doty's talent as a poet shines through in his prose.
I think everyone can find what they need within the pages, but I have to warn you, this takes a lot to read; it is about the biggest love, the hardest sorrow, the deepest grief, and requires courage to read. In general, he did not inspire confidence. I think of widows keening, striking themselves- dark-swathed years, a closeting of self away from the world, turned inward toward an interior dark. I'm glad Doty wrote this but I'm sorry he lived it. He seems to be trying to write about his life as he is living it, and like life there is no real end in sight, no answers found; the point of Doty's memoirs seems to be the process, and not the end product. The test results had come back negative for me, positive for Wally, but it didn't seem to matter so much which of us carried the antibodies for the virus.
Go easy, but you go. In the museums we used to visit on family vacations when I was a kid, I used to love those rooms which displayed collections of minerals in a kind of closet or chamber which would, at the push of a button, darken. But I would not recommend reading this if you're feeling depressed. John of the Divine, but my body knew, as bodies do, what it wanted. Doty's gift for lyrical description is so impressive he'll actually startle me with his language, stringing words together to create beautiful, naturalistic illusions, like some kind of linguistic magician. This is a very important book with lots of powerful moments.
That's not a typo—I loved this book, of course, but I mean to say I became invested in it in a way I can't remember ever being invested in a book before. Everything that touches us seems to relate back to that center: there is no other emotional life, no place outside the universe of feeling centered on its pivotal figure. I bring all the animals, and then I sit there myself, all afternoon, the lamps on. We have a last, deep week together, because Wally is not on morphine yet, because he has just enough awareness, just enough ability to communicate with me. The virus seemed to me, first, like a kind of solvent which dissolved the future, our future, a little at a time. It's so sad that bad things happen to good people.
When the wind lifted their edges, each would reveal a little shadowy spot, a dot of black which seemed to flash on the water, and so across the whole surface of the pond there was what could only be described as the inverse of sparkling; a scintillant blackness. Shining blackly, black but rippling, lyrical: the sheen and radiance of death-in-life. I eventually did attempt to go to sleep, but I tossed and turned all night because I was worried about Mark and Wally. It is clearly a memoir written by a poet, filled with new ways of seeing the world, with breathtaking moments, language, rhythms. I was an adolescent, quickly outgrowing religion when this new sense of the apocalyptic replaced it with the late sixties' faith in the immanence of Revolution, a belief that was not without its own religious tinge and implication. Not that things need to be able to die in order for us to love them, but that things need to die in order for us to know what they are. Oh, there was a limit out there, somewhere, of course, but not anywhere in sight.
I was sure that certain sorts of preparation were ridiculously beside the point. We have a last, deep week together, because Wally is not on morphine yet, because he has just enough awareness, just enough ability to communicate with me. I rub his feet, make him hot cider. Could we really know anything that wasn't transient, not becoming more itself in the strange, unearthly light of dying? For some of us, anyway. I used to walk out, at night, to the breakwater which divides the end of the harbor form the broad moor of the salt marsh.
Due to its poetic nature, and beautiful language, I could not get to a place of concentration where I could enjoy it within the walls of my classroom. Here, he write blatantly about his partner's slow, ugly demise at the hands of a vicious, terrifyingly mysterious virus, and then publishes it for profit. On my first visit, as I lay on my stomach in a room full of ferns and charts marking the locations of chakras and pressure points, she touched one vertebra which throbbed, seemed almost to ring, painfully, like a struck tuning fork. It was like a dark stain, a floating, inky transparency hovering over Wally's body, and its intention was to erase the time ahead of us, to make that time, each day, a little smaller. Every line of this is a poem, a spiritual dance, and I am in awe. But Heaven's Coast is a slightly different story.
From diagnosis to the initial signs of deterioration to the heartbreaking hour when Wally is released from his body's ruined vessel, Heaven's Coastis an intimate chronicle of love, its hardships, and its innumerable gifts. That we would continue to be, and to be together, had about it the unquestioned nature of a given, the tacit starting point from which the rest of our living proceeded. What Doty has done I'm sure unintentionally but nonetheless is aggrandized his own grief and subsequent recovery, then profited off it. Everything that touches us seems to relate back to that center: there is no other emotional life, no place outside the universe of feeling centered on its pivotal figure. I can feel how large, how essential this moment is as it's happening: that is what I have come to love about being an adult, to the extent that I can claim that title: that one knows more about how good things are, how much they matter, as they' happening, that knowledge isn't necessarily more.
A woman gave me the kind of paper napkins you get with an ice cream cone. Your big lovingness towards him. If he did, he's sure not telling, and that too his avoidance of addressing his own decision to write about and subsequently publish this tragedy is somehow discomforting to me. Part memoir, part journal, part elegy for a life of rare communication and beauty, Heaven's Coast evinces the same stunning honesty, resplendent descriptive power and rapt attention to the physical landscape that has won Doty's poetry such attention and acclaim. Excerpt from Heaven's Coast: A Memoir by Mark Doty Excerpt from Heaven's Coast: A Memoir, by Mark Doty Prologue: Is There a Future? We witness Doty's passage through the deepest phase of grief -- letting his lover go while keeping him firmly alive in memory and heart -- and, eventually beyond, to the slow reawakening of the possibilities of pleasure. On my first visit, as I lay on my stomach in a room full of ferns and charts marking the locations of chakras and pressure points, she touched one vertebra which throbbed, seemed almost to ring, painfully, like a struck tuning fork. Doty treats the profundity of that love with a naked sincerity.