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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

for Lara Young, who pulls in all the wounded mamas with love, and for the other mamas, I am so grateful for you


At the edge of the happy throng,
we found each other,
five women who had lost a child.
Of course, we cried,
but damn, how we laughed
as we mobbed the photo booth
and dressed in bright wigs
and pink glasses and mustaches.
One woman was a blue crayon,
another wore a crown,
another held a bottle of red wine
as if to guzzle the whole bottle down.
And as the photographer lifted his lens,
the woman in the gold top hat howled,
When life fucks you up the ass,
and lifted a hand as if to say,
What do you do with that?
And we all knew what she meant.
What do you do with that except
weep when you weep
and laugh when you can
and love all the more
and slip the pink sequin gown over your arms
and smile for the camera
as one of the other moms squeezes your ass
and another one rests her head on your shoulder,
smile because that’s what a naked heart does
when surrounded with love,
smile because there is collateral beauty
you never could have dreamed of,
smile because the memory of these beloved children
is so alive here,
smile because. Because.

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What is the reason
you’re canceling his membership?
asked the AAA representative.
Because he’s dead,
I said, my voice flat
as the stiff plastic card
with my son’s name on it.
I’m so sorry,
said the woman.
Thank you, I said,
determined to stay composed.
But I found myself at a threshold
with one foot in the past
when my son had just learned
to drive and was proud
to be a safe driver,
and one foot in the present
reciting the numbers
of my credit card
to pay for the membership
that no longer includes him.
Around the fifth number,
grief was a lug wrench
lodged in my throat
and I could not speak
through my tears.
I’m sorry, I said.
Take your time, she said.
It took me three tries
to get through the digits.
The number had become his smile
as he polished the headlamps.
The number had become his pride
in driving me to the store.
It was his hands on the wheel,
his glee in the curves, his finger
tapping the dash in time
to a cheeky country song.
How is it a memory so beautiful
can crumple me like a fender
hit by a semi at the same time
it floods me with joy?
God, he was happy
when he was driving,
his foot on the accelerator,
and all that road waiting
to be explored.

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inspired by “Seascape near Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer” by Vincent van Gogh and music by Kayleen Asbo, “Les Bateaux de Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer”


Dear Vincent, I wish I could speak of grief
as well as you articulate the colors of the sea,
naming all the hues as they change in the light—
noting the deep ultramarine near the shore
even as it tends toward pale russet, toward violet.
It’s always changing, you wrote to Theo.
You can’t even tell if it’s blue because
a second later the changing light
has taken on a pink or gray tinge.
The same is true of shades of loss—
the moment I identify a deep feeling sorrow,
I notice pale hints of trust, nuances of awe.
The moment I name it tenderness,
it shifts into pain, ferocity, exhaustion.
Tonight I stared into the seascape you painted
on the shores of the Mediterranean,
and I knew myself not as the water
with its capricious tones, but as the boat
that sails upon it, something transported
by all this change. I tried to see the sea
with the same perspective you had:
It wasn’t very cheery but neither was it sad
it was beautiful. 
Oh those blue depths with their emerald, their white.
I let myself be carried by that beauty.

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Any chemistry student
can tell you: a substance
that undergoes transformation
must first be torn apart.
I have been torn apart.
I have felt the breaking,
the rearranging,
and now the rebuilding
of my bonds. I marvel
at the brand new molecules—
how they transform
from despair to openness.

Though I look the same
and sound the same,
there is no mistaking
I am forever changed—
but not by sorrow, no.
Sorrow is the catalyst
that speeds it all up.
But it is love absorbed
that is breaking the bonds,
and love that evolves
as new bonds are made.

Some days I feel it,
I am less what I was and more
whatever it is that drives
the autumn, the spring.
Every day the chance
for love to find its way in.
And each time love helps me
to meet the unmeetable,
the reactant of self
becomes offering.  

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thank you, Mom


And though she is now late for church
and though she is still getting dressed
and though we had already said goodbye
and had nearly hung up,
my mother sits in her rocker
and gives me her full attention
as I cry. This, she says, is exactly
what Mother’s Day is for.
And part of me wants to let her go,
and part of me is so grateful
she stays with me, holding me
with her being. For though
there are no words that bring comfort,
her silence and presence do,
and though I am no longer
a little girl who can curl into her lap,
that’s what I do. I feel myself cradled
and fall all the way into her love
and it feels good to be a daughter
on this day when it’s not easy
to be a mother. It feels good
for a moment to not be the one
doing the holding. To not be the one
who is strong. To be the one
who nestles deeper in,
so deep
I can meet the unmeetable.

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with gratitude for all who have gone before


Now I know there is a circle of love—
a circle formed not only by the great remaking of self
when a child is born
but also by the great remaking of self
when a child dies.  
It doesn’t matter how old the child
or how they died. It doesn’t matter
if the loss happens today or seventy years ago.
It doesn’t matter if they live next door
or Peru or Israel or South Africa.
Now I know there is a circle
of women who have died themselves
and found a way to keep living.
They are among us at the grocery store,
in restaurants, on the street.   
They look like our sister, our boss,
our lover, our student, our friend.
They find us. They say, “I am here.”
They offer to climb into bed with us
on the days we can’t get out.
They know to say the name of our child.
They speak in the present tense.
Perhaps they light candles.
Perhaps they make meals.
Perhaps they pray for us without telling us so.
Now I know there’s a circle of love
that surrounds this circle—
a circle of others who carry us
whether we ask them to or not,
who hold us as if we are treasure,
who remind us we are deeply connected,
who weave us back into the greater cloth.
Now I know the broken heart
can be a heart that expands, a heart that widens,
a heart that meets suffering and stays open.
Now I know the broken heart will do whatever it does.
And grief is a bond
not only to the one who is gone,
but to those who remain.
I know love grows in the deepest wounds.
We go on. Like love itself, we go on.

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inspired by Leigh Gage


I try to make it beautiful—a spacious place
with room enough for blue birds to migrate,
where whole herds of elk can bed down,
and with fields so vast they hold
every memory of you—
not just the warmhearted memories,
but the hardest ones, too.
Those I hold up to the soft light of morning,
grateful for room enough to walk around them
and give them the space they need.
Those I hold up to the sharp light of noon
and say, yes, yes, it was like that.
I fill my heart with the scent of apple pie and cinnamon,
lemon zest and the river in spring.
Sometimes, when I am most vulnerable,
there’s a floral fragrance of forgiving.
I try to keep my heart soft. I try not to clench,
not to harden, not to set. I try to create
a place where you can rest, where you can stay.
It is full of blank books, each one waiting to be filled
with stories of how it is with you living here in my heart,
this place where you have always lived,
this place even death cannot take away—
this place death has made more holy, more real.

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May 4, 2022

It wasn’t that anything special happened today.
No holiday. No giant rainbow. No astonishment
of bloom. Though in years past we would have said,
May the Fourth be with you.
It wasn’t that I made an extraordinary meal,
though you did love the thin-sliced roasted potatoes
I made tonight, and they did turn out good,
slightly bubbled and browned.
It wasn’t that there was a bobcat on the porch.
And the morels aren’t out just yet.
And Mother’s Day is not until this weekend.
But I missed you. I missed you not because it was
the first May 4 since you were gone, I missed you
simply because you are gone. Sometimes,
getting through any ordinary day
is like trying to play Scrabble alone.
It’s like singing a lullaby to an empty bed.
It’s like not making your lunch.
It’s like not worrying how you’re doing.
It’s like lighting a candle and letting it burn to the end.

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Goodbye to holding you, goodbye
to family trips and snuggling before bed,
goodbye to plans and to laughter,
your clothes and your car. Goodbye
to the awe I felt as I watched you
become more yourself, goodbye
to the dizzying map of promise I saw
as you plotted your days. Goodbye to all I knew.

But now, it’s hello. Hello, love that still grows.
Hello as I rise, when I walk outside.
Hello, with my hands in the dirt, when I drive
the winding alpine divide, hello when I light a candle,
hello when the hot tears come. Hello, I say,
hello, aware now I am never alone.

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The Inconceivable

Nothing can separate us from love.
There is no way to know this
without paying a cost so great
some part of us longs to bargain
with the universe and trade back
the priceless truth. But part of us—
the part that cannot be named,
the part that wakes at dawn,
the part that sings in the darkness,
the part that wades in the infinite—
it’s not so much that this part says yes,
more that it simply expands with the truth,
much as the universe itself expands
due to a dark, mysterious energy.
Any scientist will tell you,
empty space is not nothing.
We who grieve learn
to hold that empty space
and know it as love.
I know, it’s inconceivable.
We feel how it holds us, too.


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