This is a good one. Maybe because I want a dog, maybe because I’m realizing grief is just…going to stay with me. And that will be OK. (We will be OK…eventually.)
Talking To Grief
by Denise Levertov
Ah, Grief, I should not treat you
like a homeless dog
who comes to the back door
for a crust, for a meatless bone.
I should trust you.
I should coax you
into the house and give you
your own corner,
a worn mat to lie on,
your own water dish.
You think I don’t know you’ve been living
under my porch.
You long for your real place to be readied
before winter comes. You need
your collar and tag. You need
the right to warn off intruders,
my house your own
and me your person
my own dog.
I posted this last year after Mom’s diagnosis, before our annus horribilis, telling myself that it would all be OK, the trees get their leaves again, we will get through this.
We did get through it but not all of us; this year it seems even more appropriate, as the rest of us figure out “a return/to the strange idea of continuous living despite/ the mess of us, the hurt, the empty.”
Instructions on Not Giving Up
by Ada Limón
More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Let me just say that after eight months of prioritizing my sleep and reading that sleep book, this Daylight Savings Time “lose an hour of sleep” nonsense is…nonsense. But we’ll get used to it after a week or so and in the meantime, here’s a poem:
Waking from Sleep
BY ROBERT BLY
Inside the veins there are navies setting forth,
Tiny explosions at the waterlines,
And seagulls weaving in the wind of the salty blood.
It is the morning. The country has slept the whole winter.
Window seats were covered with fur skins, the yard was full
Of stiff dogs, and hands that clumsily held heavy books.
Now we wake, and rise from bed, and eat breakfast!
Shouts rise from the harbor of the blood,
Mist, and masts rising, the knock of wooden tackle in the sunlight.
Now we sing, and do tiny dances on the kitchen floor.
Our whole body is like a harbor at dawn;
We know that our master has left us for the day.
I missed the annual posting of T.S. Eliot’s Ash Wednesday on Ash Wednesday last year, but we’re back on schedule this year. I usually post the last section because it has the best rhythm (and “smell renews the salt savour of the sandy earth” is just so fun to say), but I think my favorite passage is at the end of the second section:
Under a juniper-tree the bones sang, scattered and shining
We are glad to be scattered, we did little good to each other,
Under a tree in the cool of day, with the blessing of sand,
Forgetting themselves and each other, united
In the quiet of the desert. This is the land which ye
Shall divide by lot. And neither division nor unity
Matters. This is the land. We have our inheritance.
For Valentine’s Day, a poem by Ada Limón:
What I Didn’t Know Before
was how horses simply give birth to other
horses. Not a baby by any means, not
a creature of liminal spaces, but a four-legged
beast hellbent on walking, scrambling after
the mother. A horse gives way to another
horse and then suddenly there are two horses,
just like that. That’s how I loved you. You,
off the long train from Red Bank carrying
a coffee as big as your arm, a bag with two
computers swinging in it unwieldy at your
side. I remember we broke into laughter
when we saw each other. What was between
us wasn’t a fragile thing to be coddled, cooed
over. It came out fully formed, ready to run.
From everything I’ve heard talking to people who have lost a parent, the pain of it will last and last and last and you think it won’t ever get better–and then you notice that it hurts a little less. There is, of course, a poem for that.
by John O’Donohue
When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you becomes fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence
Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.
Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.
There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.
Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.
It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it knows its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.
Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.
A voice hissed, “He sheds tears!”
It was taken up around the ring. “Ususl gives moisture to the dead!”
He felt fingers touch his damp cheek, heard the awed whispers.
Jessica, hearing the voices, felt the depth of the experience, realized what terrible inhibitions there must be against shedding tears. She focused on the words: “He gives moisture to the dead.” It was a gift to the shadow world–tears. They would be sacred beyond a doubt.
I told Doc last night, “All I talk about any more is the gym and my feelings,” but you know what? Talking about feelings is OK. Here’s part of a poem about them (the full text is here).
From “A Poem for My Daughter,” by Teddy Macker
It seems we have made pain
some kind of mistake,
like having it
is somehow wrong.
Don’t let them fool you—
pain is a part of things.
But remember, dear Ellie,
the compost down in the field:
if the rank and dank and dark
are handled well, not merely discarded,
but turned and known and honored,
they one day come to beds of rich earth
home even to the most delicate rose.