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Posts Tagged ‘loss’

While Sitting in 28B




flying toward New York City,
I think of how every person
in this speeding vessel
has lost or will lose
someone they love.
And as we fly over Omaha,
Chicago, Michigan,
I feel how many we are—
a whole hurtling planet filled
with those who ache with loss.
I think of how much love
has been beaming
continuously toward
the prism of my heart,
as if the brightest red laser
has been shining into me,
lighting up every facet,
and my heart, radiant, luminous,
has begun to shudder and rattle
with the charge of so much love.
I always knew it wasn’t
mine to keep—
knew it was all love to share.
This is the poem in which
my heart is a firework
exploding with red seeds of light.
They’re for you, if you’ll have them,
to plant in the darkness
like the million lights that sparkle
outside the plane window.
If I could, I would place
this love in your hand.
I know it’s awkward,
you don’t even know me.
Still, I would whisper,
Here—it’s for you.  

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After the heart broke like a porcelain bowl,
when it shattered in pieces, scattered,
life itself reassembled the shards.
Friends bring their melted gold
to seal the bits together again.
I trace my fingers across the shining scars.
Some pieces will be missing forever.
Let me fall in love with what has been broken.
Let me dare to call it beautiful.

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Out of Season




Autumn is, perhaps, befitting
for heartache—everywhere you look,
loss. Loss of leaves, loss of color,
loss of warmth, loss of light.
If you are grieving,
the barren world seems to mirror
what’s happening inside you.
Everything seems to say,
See, you can’t hold on.

So how to explain this explosion
of beauty, this unexpected spring of grace—
how to explain the way generosity
pushes through what’s dead
like apple trees in first pink,
how gratitude flourishes, enormous
invisible blooms, and though
you can’t see them, everywhere,
everywhere in this heart of autumn,
you smell the insistent green of springtide,
the astonishing perfume of love.


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The Naked Heart Goes into Town




The heart walks down the street
with its big brim hat, its sunglasses,
its four chambers stepping up
onto the curb. It hopes it doesn’t
run into anyone it knows.
It’s hard enough to keep pumping,
pumping, one hundred thousand times
a day. That’s all the heart can manage right now.
No conversation. No small talk.
No big talk. The heart has nothing to say—
a heart is made to feel,
and feel it does as it makes its way
to the post office, stops at the crosswalk,
feels it all.
Feels the cool breeze that buffets it.
Feels love for the scent of autumn,
love for the low-glancing light.
And it grieves for the loss
of what once it pumped for.
Grieves for the boy who still
lives in its walls. Grieves for
all who grieve, who weep.
Oh the heart, it feels so exposed
as it stands at the door of the coffee shop,
wonders if it can go in.
The other hearts in the coffee shop
wear so much skin.
The heart sniffs at the dark and bitter scent,
remembers what it was like  
to go inside, sip a latte, talk about weather.
It pounds against itself,
walks on down the road.

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That was the year you were Santa.
Your sister was a Christmas tree,
and your dad and I were reindeer.
I remember how much I loved you
that night with your big white beard
falling off your face, how I giggled
with your high-pitched ho ho ho
right before you’d say trick or treat.
I miss you. Every day accordions
with missing you. Every hour
comes to the door, sack in hand,
wondering what I have to offer it.
Sometimes I want to turn off the lights,
pretend I’m not home. But not tonight.
Tonight I hand out memories of you—
you dressed as blue crane, as red ninja,
as a giant cardboard skyscraper,
as a tall green firework made of felt,
and as Santa with a big black belt—
each memory sweeter than the other
until the hour is weighted with unbearable
sweetness, not the kind I can eat,
but the kind that consumes me.
This is the year I dress as myself
for Halloween—some version of me
who has lost all her masks—and you,
you are the one I keep wishing
could still knock on the door.

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One Boy




Today the heart is full of ghosts—
one doing backflips and one
eating ice cream and one throwing
rocks in the river. One drops
a camera into a lily pond while trying
to take a picture. One peels apples
and one rides on my hip and one
sings country songs. One lights a candle
and one blows it out and one spends hours
arguing about which of the ghosts is most right.
And one is never satisfied. And one
has a thousand dull gray eyes. And one,
one whispers, I’ve got this, Mom.
And I turn to them all, one at a time,
and say welcome, you’re all welcome here.
Even the ghost who slams the door.
Even the ghost who bristles, who swears.
Ghost playing drums. Ghost aiming
nerf guns. Ghost wearing button down shirts.
Ghost with a brain made for zeros and ones.
Ghost with hands in the dirt.
And the heart expands to hold them all—
or were its corridors already stretched?
Straight A ghost. Red canoe ghost. Ghost
of the man I’ll never know. Ghost
who sits beside me at the table,
who says nothing, sipping sweet tea.
Ghost who tucks me into bed, then
slips into my dreams.

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Missing You



Today, missing you
is like missing my own name,
like missing my arms,
like missing my skin.
The house too small
to hold it all,
I run outside
to feel cold, to feel
sun on my face, to
feel wind, to feel the day.

I want to remember this—
how I cannot live for one minute
without loving you.
I want to remember
how every street in our town,
every room in our home,
every cell of my body
is resonant with where you have been.

This morning, holding your sister,
I wanted to take all her pain away,
then thought how I would not want such erasure
for myself. Would never want to take away
for her that you were here. Would never want
to erase any of her love for you.
Whatever part of you was miracle and light
when you were here
is no less miracle, no less light.

And so this terrible invitation
to love what we love,
knowing it leads to loss.
Oh these awe-full sharp-edged days,
how they scrape, how they eviscerate.
Don’t let time make them soft.
I want to remember.


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months after the storm
still,
the rain

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 You are your most valuable asset. Don’t forget that. You are the best thing you have.
            —from Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, (May 17, 1939-October 14, 2021) 


How many children went down in that plane, Gary?
How many children fell out of the sky alone
and learned they could live
for months in the woods
with only a hatchet for help?
How many kids learned
that tough conditions were a bidding
to bring their best self?
My daughter was nine or ten
when she first drew your book from the shelf
and found herself stranded in the northern woods.
Then she went there on purpose again and again.

Now, three years later, she wanders a forest of loss,
and in so many ways she’s alone.
Gary, you gave her a story to believe in
in which young people survive, find their way home.
Your story’s a sharp tool my daughter can wield
to make sparks in these darkened days.
I thank you for teaching her
how she might rise from a crash,
how in these woods of sorrow,
though I would build her a fire if I could,
she is the best thing she has.

*In case you are unfamiliar with Gary Paulsen, you can read more here. As he says, “Name the book that made the biggest impression on you. I bet you read it before you hit puberty.”

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No Trophy, But




Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly
feel more love than I do,
today, the heart beats its own record—
falls in love with my daughter
singing Disney in the car.
In love with my husband
heating water for my tea.
In love with the leaves as they spread
golden praise through the yard.
In love with the sacred mess.
In love with each person who
meets another with kindness.
I fall in love with cats and candles,
the hill as I climb it,
the wind as it chills me,
and sunflowers that bloom despite snow.
And the raw me who aches, I love her, too.
And the naked me who weeps—
what else is she supposed to do?
And the quiet that comes
when I lean in to listen to what is most true.
It wasn’t a love contest today,
and yet, inside me, love continued to grow.
Last week, I felt emptied, scoured,
scraped clean, prepared for something—
I knew not what.
Perhaps I was being prepared for more love.
Love for the emptiness. Love for the scouring.
Love for the being scraped clean. Love
that expands despite heartache, because heartache.
Love that asks nothing. And gives it all.
And keeps giving.

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