Death and the Lady’chylde
In Kozak’s debut book, the reader experiences a process of pain by a father who lost a daughter to kidney and liver disease brought on by alcoholism. We become so much more than an observer through his poetic experience — but a party to his pain, as well as the loss and induction to a club no parent wishes to belong. From the very beginning, through Kozak’s surprise discovery of his daughter, Leah’s, hospitalization, to her passing and 15 months beyond, one is gripped with a sense of compassion coupled with a lack of words that could ever hope to adequately assuage such a depth of suffering.
One gathers early in the book that the diagnosis and hospitalization are both surprises to Kozak, and many poems that follow the initial loss suggest that his daughter’s alcoholism was hidden from the family until it was too late. My dear chylde
many days now, trying, (at age 31),
( from “Leah Marie” )
The first few pages reflect Kozak’s desperate struggle to overcome travel challenges between his home in Florida to his daughter’s in Kansas. In the midst of attempting to accept the unthinkable, the question for Kozak becomes “How did I not know this?” The despair to reach his daughter’s side is palpable, and accelerates when he discovers the horrifying news, among all else, that nothing more can be done, and she has been transferred to a local Hospice: [. . .]
old man oldman your girl'chylde
lays a-dying girl child
dying, & all you
have to say is
"this cannot be. this cannot be.
this cannot be
( from “Hospice (and beyond)”)
Kozak’s denial is haunting and becomes an emotional autobiographical, touching the heart of every parent in respect to their own children’s mortality. He reminds us of how parents are frequently troubled by unfinished business over the loss of a child: Including regrets, desiring forgiveness, and a fear that there was something, some superhuman parental power they could have evoked, or action they could have done to prevent such a tragic loss. Above all, parents yearn to know that their children’s lives had meaning and purpose. And while some solace may be found in daily routines and activities — such as faith, hobbies, the advancement of some area of art such as music and poetry, there will, nonetheless, always be an urgency of regret rising as a daily reminder, as a parent surely there was more that could have been done — even though there was nothing that could be done at the point of discovery: flew fly fling high cry cry
c r y crying cr'eye eye
to Kansas City to see her
[. . .]
the last time................
She died an hour before eye landed
( “Kansas City Funerary (Leah Marie, 1987-2018)” )
Life has an uncanny way of twisting a person’s reality instantaneously, as a knife in the heart unwilling to be pulled out. For Kozak it becomes a bane that disallows healing, and worn unjustly as a scarlet A, depicting a mistake he never made: Father should have been more
with you [ other than the
( “You Should Have Been There” )
His long destination to healing continues even today through the support of his family, friends, and poetry. Kozak’s Death and the Lady’chylde
covers much I haven’t touched on that does not include death from aging, or the typical stories of Medicare, assisted suicide, and last rites. But, rather, a healing process through words, and the will to continue to keep his Leah’s memory alive. It is simply, and yet not so simply, the story of a father grieving the loss of his daughter through the only avenue he finds available to keep her memory alive: Poetry.
And remember her we will. Not A Poem, Nor a Poom
Leah Marie Kozak
April 30, 1987 - July 4, 2018
Rest In Peace my beloved Child
Love, Dad Death and the Lady’chylde
is dedicated to all parents who have or are struggling with their children's addiction, be it alcoholism or drugs, in hopes that somehow, this painful journey will help another along the way should they experience the same horrifying reality. Or, perhaps, even alter their course of a reality through awareness.
I highly recommend it not only as a parent, but as a human with a desire to understand suffering, and make a difference in the lives of those experiencing something I thankfully have not. http://lulu.com/spotlight/DeathandtheLadychylde