Tag Archive | poetry

Second Sowing – A Poem about Grief by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

For whom
The milk ungiven in the breast
When the child is gone?
For whom the love locked up in the heart
That is left alone?
That golden yield
Split sod once, overflowed an August field,
Threshed out in pain upon September’s floor,
Now hoarded high in barns, a sterile store.
Break down the bolted door;
Rip open, spread and pour
The grain upon the barren ground
Wherever crack in clod is found.
There is no harvest for the heart alone;
The seed of love must be
Eternally
Resown.

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The End of Words

The massacre of babies with bushmasters

are words that shame the lips, stun the tongue into silence,

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end words,

send language,

or even the very idea

of language,

raining down

into the holy place

inside the dark forever of

a parent’s soul,

forever divided

between this and that,

then and now,

a rupture so wide and deep

that words

drop into the void.

How can you speak

when you hear such words?

Can you ask questions?

Who is at war with

whom?

How does that sorrow

break?

What does it take to make

the whole world

tremble?

And what of the millions

who only buy more bushmasters

in the wake of those words?

Where are the words that can speak of that?

Those words even silence the rain.

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:

MY GOD, THAT BOY LOOKS JUST LIKE–

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

Occasional Poetry

What the Doctor Said

by Raymond Carver

He said it doesn’t look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I’m glad I wouldn’t want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I’m real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn’t catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who’d just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong


The Inoculation Effect of Big Time Grief

I’ve been thinking for a very long time about the inoculation effect of grief. This is a term I believe has relevance to the experience of “high” grief, or as I call it in my novel “big time grief.” I’ve never read or heard anyone use the term. Here’s the general definition from the Oxford:

Inoculate: The deliberate introduction into the body of a micro-organism, especially in order to induce immunity to a disease; vaccination.

What does this have to do with grief? Here’s what. I think of the pain I suffered during my bereavement almost as a kind of inoculation against future pain. Not that I can no longer feel anything, just that I can handle it now. It seems to me that I became aware of this effect after quite a lot of time had passed, and I do think one has to have done the grief work in order to feel the effect, but the truth is, no matter what trauma I’ve faced–and there have been a few since my son died–I’ve always kept myself on a relatively even keel, emotionally. I’ve consoled myself by thinking that nothing could be as devastating as what I’ve already been through. What could? If I survived that, I can survive anything. I mentioned this notion to the group of bereaved folks I wrote with last night, and I saw recognition in many of their faces. Of course, we wish we had our children back, but life only goes one way and we are forced to learn those lessons that are given to us. I wonder if anyone else has felt that serious grief can inoculate us, so that we are able to face whatever else lies ahead.

Initially, a few of the bereaved parents in the group last night seemed somewhat resistant to the idea of writing as a way to help us explore, understand, and express our inner worlds, especially when I said I had written a novel. One man asked “Is your novel fiction or non-fiction?” I explained that all novels are fiction, and he said, “But this is REAL LIFE.”

Meaning, what can YOU–a fiction writer–possibly know about the REAL pain I’m feeling?

I explained that I too had lost a child, and that my novel had been inspired by the experience. That seemed to appease him, and I didn’t feel the need to explain that I would be employing exercises that used fictional techniques. Once I told him that I too had lost a child, he seemed willing to trust me. I was a member of the club that no one wants to belong to. I so well remember the feeling of being resentful, even suspicious of anyone who hadn’t lost a child, who hadn’t been where I was but would presume to tell me how to feel, what to do, how to act.

I want to share with readers a poem the group last night wrote. The group’s thoughts are listed in no particular order. They composed this poem after I read them a wonderful list poem by Elaine Equi called “Things to Do in the Bible” and we then composed:

Things to Do When You Lose a Child:

Cry – Get Mad – Yell at God – Cry – Pray – Yell at God – Try to Breathe – Freeze and shut down – Pray for help – Find your center – Look within for wisdom – Count your blessings – Comfort a wife – Cry – Bang the Steering Wheel – Cry Cry Cry – Find Spirituality – Figure out how to survive – Talk talk talk – Scream and swear at God – Listen for his voice – Fight with your husband – Get Back to Work- Honor His Memory – Resent everyone- Celebrate his life – Pray – Give to Others – Light a Candle – Hate Life – Cry – Look at Pictures – Eat – Cry – Spend time with a husband – Cry – Talk to friends – Get Help – Cry – Scream – Take a bath – Hug a friend – Swim a mile – Try to sleep – Walk in the woods – Eat your heart out – Go to Bed – Not get dressed – Rage at the moon – Hate everyone – Hate God – Swim upstream – Ignore your living children- Feel guilty – Write a book

The last one was mine, of course. Not everyone can write a book, obviously. But writing CAN be therapeutic, I’m convinced of it. Here’s a poem I composed at some point, among the first semi-coherent writings I managed. I think it gives a good idea of how grief feels. Or at least how my grief felt. A version of this poem appears in Saving Elijah.

I am a clobbered egg
ex orb exploded
white shard in your eye
it hurts.
There there.
This sweet yellow yolk
rots now,
threaded with bloodeous black,
glutinous maximus,
sweet rot drips
all over the imported linen,
sticky on the gold rimmed China,
soiled with the grotesque muck
of my child’s grave.
There with my child, so cold.
I sweat this stuff in your face,
all placid and complacent as a baby’s toes.
I yield up nothing you want.
No angel wings,
No down for your bed,
No meat.