Walking with Andrea when grief shows up

Sometimes chance is weird but kind,

as when I am walking with Andrea by chance,

and grief escapes from the home,

and sneaks up behind

me, an old woman with milky eyes,

limbs stiff with years,

hobbles to my back door unannounced,

dragging her bag of gruesome memories

clamping her crooked fingers

round my neck

popping the cork of my unruly mouth:


Abort, abort.

After all these years I know just what not to do,

when grief shows up out of the blue

eyes of a little boy laughing,

doppelganger in a stroller,

not fall at his feet

not touch his face

not put my lips to his cheek

not whisper my son’s name and weep.

Better this hovering young mother think me rude

than to finish my unfinished sentence.

Better let her live innocent as snow

than tell her hair can turn to straw

a toddler’s eyes can go dark

death can come

even to a boy like that

and reincarnate fifteen years later in a boy like that,

and have to say I’m sorry to ruin your day

when I’m not,

not really.

Sometimes chance is weird but kind,

as when by chance I am walking with Andrea,

whose son happens to lie next to mine,

grave companions, you might say

clean picked bones shaped like two little boys,

tiny metacarpals touching,

tibias, fibulas,

sacral bones lying still

in their adjacent tombs, beneath their sacred marble stones.

Sometimes chance is weird but kind,

as when Andrea takes my hand,

leads me away, a bewildered child,

and grief hobbles along behind us, trying to keep up.

Larry would have been thirty-one, Andrea whispers,

Michael would have been eighteen, I say.

Toddlers into men,

even the gods of imagination cannot make that leap.

I do not tell Andrea that sometimes

the gods of imagination animate our boys,

and they rise from the dead and live

pink-cheeked to play

next to the tree in the sunlight,

no affront to the blue sky,

grass, insects

even the birds.

Sometimes I think I liked it better

when grief was young and potent,

weighed four thousand pounds,

screamed and screeched like a carnival troll,

slashed at my skin and cells with its long claws,

hissed like the villain in a silent movie.

At least I knew where grief was then,

It didn’t shuffle and creep up behind me

like an old woman with clouded eyes

begging for attention and pity

with her bag of hoary stuff–

her milky tubes,

pumping machines,

white coats

switching eyes

2 thoughts on “Walking with Andrea when grief shows up

  1. This is one of the most touching heartfelt pieces I have read in a long time. I am so grateful you are so in touch with yourself. Hard and painful work and wonderful expression.

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