Posts Tagged ‘loss’


How do we live at the traumatic center of death and life?
            —Rabbi Irwin Kula, Original Thinkers Festival 2022

A single moment contains
the scent of warm pumpkin pie
and the gravedigger’s spade,
the splatter of blood
and the smooth honeyed flesh of mango.
Did we ever believe we would live
this life unscathed?
Oh, the stab of loss
and the clean, mineral perfume of rain.
Oh, the ache of loss
and the deep golden sunflowered yes.
Oh, the carving of loss
and the sweet subtle tang of apples in fall.
Oh, the ache, bless the ache,
oh, the beauty, the loss,
oh, the beauty, the loss, oh, the beauty.

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Like a pale blue ribbon,
soft and lovely,
your words are woven
through the nest that has held me
since the merciless shot of loss.
Your poems meet me again and again
with their open eyes
and their open hands.
They say, Rest here,
sweetheart. I understand.
You, with your pilgrim heart,
your insistence on devotion,
you have cradled me
with your honesty.
Long before I knew
I needed to be saved,
your words found me,
stitched through me with love
as if that is what words are for.

Dear friends, here is where you can find out more about the remarkable Gregory Orr. 

And here is where you can find one of his poems that has saved me in the past year. 

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The mother walked
in a deep river gorge
forged by water and time.
She knew herself alone.
She moved with no urgency.
She stepped as if she’d forgotten
what time was.
She paused at the wild currants
and pulled the small red fruits
into her mouth.
She paused on the bridge
and watched the water
continue its forging.
She paused on a flat rock,
removed her shoes
and slipped her feet
into the cold water.
She did not mind
the hem of her black dress
spilling into the stream.
She sat.
She didn’t weep until she did.
She wept until she didn’t.
She sat until she forgot
she was sitting.
She sat until
there was a clearing in her
the way the river will eventually clear
after it’s been muddied by the rain.
There’s no magic number
for how many minutes
or hours or years
it takes to clear.
It is, perhaps, sufficient to know
clearing happens.
At some point, she rose
and walked toward home.
She was not alone.
There was nothing that was not beautiful.

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Warning Label

In the small print that doesn’t appear on my wrist
when you shake my hand, it says, Not advised
for those with low tolerance to weeping. It says,
For those allergic to intimacy, recommend low dosage.
It says, Close contact is associated with a high risk
of being included as a subject in poems.
Oh, blah, blah, blah. Everything comes with a warning label
these days. So many potential risks when we connect.
Like irrational happiness. Like loss. Like grief.
Like a deepening love that will never go away.

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Nearing the Time When

Even without a calendar,
I would know it is nearly a year
since you left this world.
I know by the angle
of sun in the trees.
Know by the way
I need a sweater at night.
Know by the peas ripe on the vine
and the carrots just now long enough to pull.
I know by the scent
of afternoon monsoons
and the daily threat of mudslides
and the regreening of the field before the gold.
The whole world seems to remember
what it was doing the day you died.
The hummingbirds were swarming
the sweet water in the feeder.
The blue dragonflies were landing
on reeds near the pond.
And the sunflowers in the garden
had just begun to open.
I am pierced by an awareness
of what is not the same,
how the rhythms of the heart
have wildly changed,
even as the river sings red and low
as it always does in August,
even as the mushrooms push through the duff
as they do, as they do, as they always do.

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Once love was tsunami,
a great wave of love
that crashed into me,
and though I was pulled under
and held there,
somehow I did not drown.
Once love was the buzz of a red laser,
precise and powerful.
It focused on my heart
and rewrote me, cell by cell.
Now, I put an ear to the wall of my heart
and I hear the steady thrum of love,
how it moves in me
the way a river never stops singing in its bed,
the way stars naturally resonate,
albeit at frequencies too low to hear,
but that doesn’t mean
they are not making music.
Perhaps I needed the crashing,
the buzzing, the proof.
Now, I trust the love that courses there.
I trust love’s constant hymn.
I do not know how it works,
but I trust I will be sung.  

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The Unheard

I do not hear his shrieks of laughter
escaping from his room.
I don’t hear his hand beating time against the table.
I don’t hear the luff of his breath
as I stand beside him while he sleeps.
I don’t hear the fear in his voice
when he begs me, please mom, please.

I hear the rain on the rooftop,
a morse code of love I don’t know how to translate
except in shades of green.
I hear cars on the highway,
and remember life is moving.
I hear the whir of the hummingbird wings
and the black notes of crows
and the silence where the boy
no longer grows.

If you ask me do I hear his voice,
I would tell you no.
But that is only partly true.
I do not hear his voice in words.
I don’t hear it the way perhaps I wish to.
But I hear him inside me, not a whisper,
but a voice that sounds startlingly like my own,
a voice that sounds like rain on the roof,
like cars on the highway, like hummingbird wings,
like crows, like the silence
where my love for the boy still grows.

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on the brightest day
the shadows steep darker—
winging through them
on imperceptible wind
a white feather

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inspired by Pietà by Vincent van Gogh and a piano composition by the same name by Kayleen Asbo

When Chopin wrote his prelude in E minor,
its melody descending like sundown in a field,
he could never have guessed how
Eugène Delacroix would listen to the song relentlessly
when he painted his Pietà, how the haunting notes
would infuse themselves into the twilight
of the Virgin Mary’s blue dress,
into her outstretched hands and her oddly angled neck
as she held the dead body of her son.

And Delacroix could not have known
how, two years later, Anna van Gogh
would give birth to Vincent Willem,
his heart unbeating, his lungs unbreathing—
how Anna would long to mourn like the Virgin
and hold her own dead child, but her husband
would forbid her to even speak of the loss,
calling her grief a sin.

And Anna could not have known
how a year to the day when her first son died
she would deliver another boy
and name him Vincent Willem van Gogh,
and he would grow up seeing his own name
and birthday carved into a gravestone.

No surprise then, perhaps, that when Vincent
painted his own version of Delacroix’s Pietà,
he painted the dead son in the likeness of himself—
his own slender shoulders, his own red beard.
In Virgin Mary’s eyes, he painted dusk.

And van Gogh could not have known
how over a hundred years later
a woman named Kayleen, inspired
by Chopin and the agony in Vincent’s painting,
would write a song for piano, a song infused
with heartache and beauty, eventide and gloaming.

And Kayleen could not have known how,
months later, another woman would hear
in the slow rolling bass of the minor key
a mirror for her brokenness,
the spilling of her own golds and blues,
how she would seek out Vincent’s Pietà
and see in the painting
her own empty hands, her own dead son.
She would understand in an instant
she was not alone
in meeting the darkling swell of unbearable loss
and the light of bearing it anyway—


Today (Monday, July 12) at 11 a.m. mountain time, I hope you can join me and composer/pianist/historian Kayleen Asbo for an hour of conversation about the “unfolding delight of collaborating on a multimedia project for Vincent van Gogh. No charge, but if you want to donate in support of our work, we will accept gratefully! Above all, we want to share the joy we have discovered in weaving poetry and music in response to van Gogh and each other. 

To register. cut and paste this link: 

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One Attempt

like trying to contain the sky
in the word blue—
saying I miss you

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