Maia Madden

Book Author, Journalist, Blogger

Requiem for My Brother George









I look out at these gentle French hills,
The silver greens you thought so lovely,
The cloudless blue sky framed by waves of vine,
The dark dense patches of trees
In patterns of repose,
So still this morning,
As you are in your coffin, George,
My beloved brother.

No longer will you see the streams and rivers
That enlivened you, nor feel the sacred space
Where you and sky and water joined,
Where you found peace in a heart
Agitated by ancient loss, a heart
Capable of selfless love
Only for the trees and rivers and oceans
You fought hard to protect.

I see you standing by a Colorado stream,
Fishing rod in hand, casting
As if in prayer,
Casting for joy, casting for freedom,
Casting for the stillness that came
With the roar of water rushing over rocks,
Rocks you collected
Like tokens of eternity.

The trees soothed your soul
As you strode thigh-deep into streams and rivers,
From Russia to Canada,
From New York to California,
And here, in Gironde, where once upon a time,
The grandfather you loved, who loved you as his one true son,
Placed a bamboo pole in your small hand,
And taught you how to fish.

Side by side you stood in silence
On the muddy banks of the Garonne,
Until your pole wobbled and you raised it
In triumph, a small silver fish dangling in the air.
How powerful you must have felt,
How complete, how proud,
When your Papi
Smiled and hugged and praised you.

You never forgot that joy.
It was the one true thing that gave meaning to your life,
That led you and sustained you.
But the rest, oh, the rest, how sad you were,
Beneath those water-green eyes,
Eyes the color of the Garonne
When the sun slants across
Its wide, sullen surface.

That river frightened me,
But not you.
It was as though you had risen from it,
Born from its restless tides,
Sometimes silent, sometimes agitated,
Sometimes as angry as its currents when storms
Ruffled its surface,
Like the surface of your life.

We saw only the surface.
What lay beneath? What depths of sorrow,
What pools of unrequited love
Hiding from the violence of currents
You could not control?
Your eyes, once full of emotion,
Grew dull as your mind dissolved
Into the murky present.

Emptied of your essence, wounded by disease,
You saw only terror,
The terror of reality slipping away,
Thought by broken thought,
The terror of pain and confusion and helplessness,
The terror of memory battered
As if flung into a raging river,
Engulfed by useless anger.

In the end, your eyes saw nothing at all.
They closed, and you slept,
Without pain or desire,
Accepting the abyss until, finally,
Death set you free.
And all that remained were your ravaged bones,
Your skin stretched paper-thin over wasted flesh.
Today, we will burn you.

Once your face was plump
With the excess of your desires,
For food, for drink, for money, for clothes,
For possessions so numerous that you collapsed under the weight,
Lost like a little boy in the rubble of an unkempt life,
With a measureless need for love that no one and nothing could fill,
An emptiness you felt but never understood,
And never tried to heal.

I will remember another you,
The man of rivers and forests,
The lover of beauty in all of its guises,
The young soul who laughed and danced,
Who loved art and music and books,
Who spoke four languages with ease,
The man who cherished cats and children,
The brother who loved me.

You wanted chocolate, always chocolate.
In the end, your sister Vesna fed you piece by piece,
Watching you smile as chocolate melted in your mouth.
Chocolate was the vestige of your senses, the final pleasure,
The last rite offered by someone who loved you,
Because we did love you, my lost, lonely brother.
We will always love you,
Our beloved brother George.


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12 thoughts on “Requiem for My Brother George

  1. jjr32012 on said:

    This must have been both painful and meditative to write…Do so many of us live those enigmatic opposites of both struggle and joyful abandon? I knew one like that, too…Gone before he really figured it out. Or had to suffer the years of confused resignation. Maybe for the best. Pretty much where my dad is right now…You did this well!!!

    Date: Fri, 4 Jul 2014 15:34:06 +0000 To:


  2. Paul Nikitovich on said:

    Beautiful Date: Fri, 4 Jul 2014 15:34:06 +0000 To:


  3. Leli Sudler on said:

    Stunningly beautiful prose poem. Ode to your wonderful brother. No stone was left unturned. So honest. Profoundly moving.


  4. Adrienne Schlossberg on said:

    Your love for George is palpable as is your loss. May he finally rest in peace.


  5. Oh Maia,

    So sorry for your loss. Always so hard even knowing that he is at piece now. Hold his good memories close.

    What a lovely tribute you wrote for him. {{{{{HUGS}}}}} go out to you.

    Kathy Carney Cell # – 831-359-2898 Fax # – 831-461-0609


  6. Vesna on said:

    Thank you ,my dearest Maia….Your loving words express the painful extremes of love and distress which captured George’s soul…we shall keep him with love in our hearts…..Vesna and Rainer


  7. Beautiful!!!! Thanks for sending it to me


  8. Kit Landis on said:

    Maia, this beautifully written and poignant poem is the greatest tribute you could give to the brother you loved.


  9. Dan Olson on said:

    Dear Maia I’m sorry about your brother. There’s a hole inside no matter the timing and state of a loved one when they leave. My deep condolences. Wishing you the best as always. Dan


  10. Ayda Senna on said:

    So beautiful! You are a wonderful sister! I can’t wait to see you. Love, Ayda Date: Fri, 4 Jul 2014 15:34:06 +0000 To:


  11. MELINDA HODGES on said:

    Dear Maia,
    Reading this just took my breath away over and over. You are a gifted writer indeed. Bless you for being the champion for him, over and over. You suffered a great deal as you watched his decline. Bless your heart for being THE one to care for him all the way to the end and beyond. Such tenderness in your words bring my heart to pause and reflect on your brother and your steadfast devotion to him. He was a lucky man to have had a sister like you.
    God Bless You.
    Melinda Hodges


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Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.


p 1 o 2 e 3 m = Four By 4 By Four

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