Posts Tagged ‘grief’

I Will Always Remember

And when I could not stand—
when the weight of life
was more than I could hold alone—
my brother held me in his big arms
and said in my ear, I’ve got you.
Though grief expanded
and increased inside me
like a terrible mutinous bloom,
I’ve got you, he said.
Though it swelled and threatened
to swamp us, he wrapped me
in a tenderness equally vast.
I’ve got you, he said, as I wept.
I’ve got you, he said, infusing me
with a love so robust I knew
I could fall into even the deepest sorrow
and still he would catch me,
would catch me, would hold me,
would hold me as long as he had arms. 
When I was most afraid to be alone,
I was not alone. I’ve got you, he said,
and I fell and I fell, the world a dark rush,
and he caught me, my brother,
and held me as all around us
what I thought I knew of the world
slipped away, slipped further away.

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Getting to Yes

Today yes is letting
my hands hang limp—
though it’s less
that I choose to not use them,
more that life insists.
Yes has lost its leaves.
Yes wears no shoes.
Yes is a winding road
with no guard rails,
no pull outs, no passing lane.
Yes feels like one leg extended
over a high desert cliff,
the other about to join it midair.
It tastes like black tea
steeped too long
with no milk.
It tastes like the meal
I didn’t order,
but was served
and told to eat.
Yes is the song
with a one-word lyric
that now I can only hum.
And if yes is a drum,
I stumble along.
And if yes says
Square your shoulders,
the best I can do today is be cloud.
The best I can do today is rain.

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It was the orange juice aisle that did it.
I stood there staring at cartons
I knew I wouldn’t buy because you
are gone. My son, I stumble on you
everywhere you are not. Which is everywhere.
The only way to learn how to meet
your absence is by meeting it.
In the car. At the table. In the yard.
On the phone. At the school.
And there in the orange juice aisle
where I stared at the cartons on the shelf
then walked on, the cart still empty.

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The Gift

It still had its leaves on it,
the pomegranate she handed me.
And holding that smooth red sphere
in my palm, I felt not only
the jeweled weight of each bright seed,
but also the weight of the many nights
the fruit had hung on the tree,
felt how the nights had slowed the growth
so the fruit could develop more sugar.
Not all things get to ripen.
Oh, this small gift of sweetness.
How it opened in me such red tenderness—
the memory of a boy learning how
to open and eat a pomegranate,
scarlet juice trickling down his chin.
And now. I hold it in awe,
this beautiful thick-skinned globe,
hold it less like a fruit,
hold it more like a love
I was just beginning to know.

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Meeting It All

Even the roses today
are limp with surrender.
They nod as if it’s too plum hard
to keep their stems upright.
Can sunlight itself be drab?
It stretches flat into the room
like a tired cat that would rather
not be bothered.
And the vine ripened tomato
has lost its sharp red thrill,
is merely mush in the mouth.
Some hours, grief is so heavy
in me that even the chair
seems unwilling to bear me,
suggests I lie on the ground.
Yes, I feel the whorls of love
that swirl around me like
a thousand tender hands.
I feel them. And I need them.
Because today, the truest thing
is the loss that whispers, Hush, darling,
don’t move. Don’t admire. Don’t
reach. Don’t do. Just lie here.
Just lie here. I’ll hold you.

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for Paul Fericano and so many others

I turn first to the chapter
on techniques for broken wings.
I learn of contour splints and anchor tape
and reasons why most broken wings
should not be completely immobilized.

I am not so unlike an injured bird.
Struck down by grief, I too, am unable to fly.
Even walking, I find I’m off balance.
I’m best treated without an audience.
I heal best with absolute calm.

I was unsure at first why my friend
would have sent me—along with tea,
chocolate, crackers and sweet biscuits—
a book on “kitchen healing:”
how to treat injured wildlife at home.

But there beneath the image
of a simple wing break, I read,
a sentence like a prophecy:
“Nature starts the healing process
almost as soon as the injury occurs.”

And I feel, to my surprise,
the tender places where the bones
of my wings no longer protrude.
And though my joints are rigid,
with supports, I’m recovering.

And I am thankful for all the hands of friends—
unskilled, untrained, yet willing to try.
Hands that send letters and blankets
and feathers and books. Calm hands
that help heal these fractures until I can fly.

*Quote from Care of the Wild Feathered & Furred: A Guide to Wildlife Handling & Care by Mae Hickman and Maxine Guy (Unity Press, 1973)

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Physics of Grief

Before I could feel grief’s full weight,
love came to meet it, and though love did not
take away the grief, not even a picogram,
it dispersed the grief into its smallest bits,
as if to increase the surface area interface
so now every single atom of grief
is surrounded, is cushioned by love.

My friend offers me words in Igbo.
Udo diri, he says. There is peace, somehow.
How, when my bright beamish boy is dead?
Yet here in the unlikely physics of grief,
love holds so tenderly each smallest bit,
and somehow, my boy, can you feel it? peace.

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In these days when the torrents of grief flood deep,
when sorrow pools like blood on the floor,
in these days when I can do nothing but meet this moment,
when I am too spent to say hello,
love comes to meet me where I am.
It holds me while I cry. It cradles me where I sit.
It steps with me as I walk. There was, at first,
a moment when I tried to push it away,
alarmed by this onslaught of love.
Too much, I protested, arms up in resistance,
but love obliterated my no.
It moved in to hold me from the inside,
slipped into my tissue, my bones,
it infused itself into each tiny cell, each organelle,
and made inside me a home. Since that moment,
I am never alone. Now it is love that moves my hand.
Love that shapes each word. Love that helps me rise.
Love that pours the tea.
Love that wakes with me in the middle of the night.
Autonomic love that makes the heart beat,
autonomic love that makes the lungs breathe.
autonomic love that meets the impossible grief
and surrounds it with an impossible grace.
Love that grips me around the heart
as if to save me from drowning.
Love that murmurs again and again,
I’ve got you, Sweetheart, I’ve got you.

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New Mantra

To this day with its deepening whirlpools of grief,
I say okay. Okay to the way I am swirled
and pulled down. Okay to the thick muscled sorrow.
Okay to the throat with its clenching, its tightness.
Okay to the ambush of tears.
On this day when saying yes to the world
is too shiny, too perky, too yes, too bright,
on this day with its churning currents of pain,
on this day when there is no clear path forward
at least I do not say no.
Okay, I say, as I pull on my clothes. Okay,
I say, as I don’t make the call. Okay
is my life vest, my life raft, my passage.
I’m grateful it isn’t a verb. Okay.
Okay. Okay, I say, blessed by its unstriving truth.
Okay, I say as the whirlpool spits me out.
Okay as another pulls me down again.

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I did not know how beautiful,
grief could be, how generous—
like an improvised cello sonata
in a minor key, a melody
that leaps and wails, unfurls
into harmonic bloom
and makes the whole body
tremble. There is a purity
in it—a sweetness that says
you are here and I will hold you
as long as you meet me.

When others tell me
they wish they could take
some fraction of the pain,
I thank them and I mean it,
but I would not let them
take even the tiniest portion.
To meet grief is to be
deeply steeped in love,
to know the self as wildly alive,
tugged apart by beauty, by loss.

And grief draws its bow
across the strings of the moment—
sonorous and lyrical.
Oh this sensuous rush of the world.
And how is it through tears, through ache,
through breathtaking pain,
I find myself saying thank you?

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