Posts Tagged ‘grief’


Though I’ve dyed his pants pink
by accident, not black as he’d hoped,
the seam of his smile
spreads easily across his face,
a smile easy as sunrise, easy as moonset,
forgiving as the smile of someone who knows
what doesn’t matter and what does.
When I wake, his smile
stays with me. Every time
I close my eyes, there it is,
widening as my heart unravels
itself in my chest.
There it is, that smile, so real
it’s still there when my eyes are open,
stitching me back into the world.

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The woman at the farmstand
with the smile in her eyes
sold me a vase with pink dahlias,
pink zinnias, white daisies
and two stems of mint.
Even with all that beauty
waiting for me in the car,
I cried in the grocery store
when the woman I hadn’t seen in years
asked how my son was doing.
When I told her he had chosen
to take his life, she cried, too.
And the stranger who overheard
our conversation cried, too,
and pulled us into her generous arms
and we hugged by the checkout,
laughing and crying in an unlikely
knot of compassion.
I don’t want or need
to be freed from grief—
don’t want to forget the loss
or pretend it didn’t happen.
I want to live in a world
where the broken heart
might meet other broken hearts,
a world where pink dahlias open
in extravagant loveliness,
a world where I, too,
might open, might know beauty,
despite the fact I have been cut.

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A Tale of Two Dreams

I slipped into the river by choice
and the current did not steal me away.
All around me was golden light.
I pulled my hands through clear water,
then raised them to the sky,
To my surprise, I had gathered
from below the surface a shimmering amethyst glitter
now suspended and radiant in the air.
When I woke, I recalled a dream
from two years ago, such desperate days.
I’d fallen in the river by accident
and the current pulled me quickly from shore.
No choice but go through long rapids.
Muddy waves crashed over me.
Whirlpools pulled me down.
I knew it would be hard. I knew I could swim.
Oh, swimmer, you have been carried
by the waters that would drown you.
Great waves. Strong forces. The silt falling out.
Of course, you are weeping with grief, with wonder.

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The Song

The night my son died
I was companioned by a song—
as if a record player had broken
or as if the angels of love and grief
could agree on only one song to sing.
Deep Peace, I heard,
unable to remember
a single other word to the song.
Deep peace. La la la la la la la.
Deep peace. La la la la la la la.
All night the two syllable lyric
infused itself into my blood,
tattooed itself into my heart,
invited me over and over and over
to let myself be found
by the peace that is always here.
Since that night, the song
attunes me to each moment.
I hum it while doing dishes,
while paying bills, while folding clothes.
I hum it when praying.
When weeping. When alone.
When I wake in the night and feel again
that clenching around my heart.
When I don’t know where to start.
Deep peace as I rest on the shores
of uncertainty. Deep peace
as the waves pull me back in.
to hear this song as sung by Libana, visit here.

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This Land

Grieving is a wilderness.
—Tara Brach, “Being with Love, Death and Grief,” July 13, 2023
Grieving is a wilderness I wear,
a long flaring coat
with cuffs of deep water
and hems lined with deserts
and birds that migrate
across my chest.
As soon as I think grief is one thing,
it’s another, vast expanses
with no known paths—
cracks to fall through,
cliffs to climb.
Sometimes, I slip from grief’s heavy silks,
and gaze at it as if it’s art.
There is terror in its folds.
But with buttes of gold
and storm-blue skies,
grief is also, my god,
so beautiful.

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Dear Friends, 

It has been two years today since I wrote you to say that we had a family emergency and it would be some time before I wrote again. Several weeks after that I wrote to explain my son Finn, nearly 17, had chosen to take his life. And it was several weeks after that before I began writing the daily poems again. During these two years, I have received so much love, and I thank you. I thank every one of you who has lit a candle, said a prayer, thought good thoughts, did something nice for someone else who was grieving. I thank every one of you who held me and my family in your hearts. I am so grateful. As it is, it’s been the hardest thing I have ever done–meeting this loss. I honor every other person who has lost a beloved. I honor every other heart that has grieved. It is so hard, and without an enormous upswelling of love, I don’t know how anyone would do it. Your words, your thoughts, your blessings have carried me, and I thank you. Thank you for all the letters and notes today and this week–I read every single one out loud. I thank every one of you by name. I am sorry that I am not able to write everyone back individually–your words matter to me. It matters to me that you reach back. It matters to me that you let me know the poems matter to you. Thank you. Thank you. I can’t imagine doing this without your support. 

Today our family decided to honor Finn’s life by going to the amusement park where we had a lot of fun as he was growing up–and one of my friends pointed out after we’d made our plan, “Life’s a rollercoaster,” and isn’t that an apt metaphor. 

As you ride your own rollercoasters, friends, I wish that you, too, feel carried by love. I wish that peace finds you and makes a home in you. 

with love, 

Riding Rollercoasters on a Difficult Day
The moment we entered the queue
for The Boomerang, we already knew
we’d be turned upside down and whirled around,
and by the time our chests were restrained
in our seats, we knew we’d consented to free fall,
to be shaken and twisted and then do it all again
backwards, but it wasn’t until the ride began,
clackity, clackity, clackity, clackity, clackity
it was only then, when we laughed
the whole time we screamed,
it was only then we surrendered.

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The Swirl

We’re traveling together, you,
me, your father, your sister. And
we’re laughing. You’re talking
about your classes for college,
and you’re nervous about seeing
a girl again, and I have this bright feeling
that you’ve passed some threshold.
You’re a firecracker, wild with potential,
and I can’t understand this swirl of worry
that churns through me like smoke.
It’s only after you race down the concourse
showing off your speed,
arms pumping, legs a blur,
your body quick and slender verb,
it’s only then when you don’t come back
I remember you already made a choice to die,
and in the dream I wail, battered again
by the bludgeon of immediate loss.
When I wake, I’m still wearing
the sweet perfume of promise and hope,
even as tears slip hot to the sheets.
It’s not easy, today, to rise, to step
into this world of heartache and courage,
this world you left, this world I love.

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Strange how the body remembers
everything about this time of year—
the angle of light, the hue of sky,
the scent of almost rain,
the shape of the green beans
twisting on the vine. It remembers
the cool of the basement,
the curl of my hand as it slid
into his hand, remembers
the tilt of the hill where we drove,
the droning of bees in the sunflowers,
the brief blaze of fireflies.
It’s as if the shock of his death
opened every door of every sense
so I was flooded with life,
imprinted with the thisness of everything.
In these days leading up to his death,
life rings me, bell-like, again and again,
and I chime, charged with memory,
amazed how my own emptiness
is what allows for the world
to make in me such music,
so vital, so clear, so raw.

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Well, as we prepare for mushroom season in the San Juan Mountains, it seems the perfect time to share this poem, “Mycelial,” part of the Dark Praise spoken word album I made with my friend guitarist Steve Law. The album, available for free download anywhere you listen to music, honors all the way the dark nourishes us. And this poem explores the necessary, even beautiful layers of grief. I love what Tony Jeannette has done with the art by Marisa. S. White … how the veiled woman continues to rise up–like grief, like love, burgeoning out of nothing. Please watch it, comment, share it. 

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The Conversation

Outside the kitchen door,
your large green crocs sit, empty.
I slip my feet into them
and shuffle around the porch.
Life went on, I say to the air, to you.
I scuffle past the cinquefoil
with its plentiful yellow blooms,
shamble past the small and robust lilac bush
friends gave us after you died.
Look at all this life, I say to you,
to the air. It’s in everything.
It’s in me, too, this burgeoning.
And then I’m crying with the all of it—
the fierce sun and the blur of hummingbirds
and the ache in my chest and
the green in the field and
the terrible, wondrous truth—
Life goes on. For a long time,
I shuffle and talk to the air.
As always, your silence speaks back.
I listen to it beneath the rush
of the river, hear it beneath the birds,
sense it beneath the shush
of the wind in the grass.

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