Stage of Isolation: Grief
—message found on voicemail by widow
Hello, I’m Pastor Hank Caring for you, my love, I just escaped
from the Very Good Bible Church Hell, whose memories were a noose that
Truth and Liberty Schools never loosened. How to believe
We have a blessing for you in cool air, soft light,
when each breath is dying and
You can realize: God loves you seeing the dying over and again
to recognize him as your Savior rips and overturns my heart
Lord forgive me, Lord save me again. I am no Dante, cannot live only to be-
Leave your number made up of days given to remembering
we’ll call you back as though anything ever
could rouse you from your jar of ashes.
–> Karen Greenbaum-Maya
I gave you my past so you could have
your own. In utero, my blood was
a dead-end you pushed off
from. I cannot blame you
for leaving. Just as air travels
the body’s sieve, you are not meant
to stay still; every breath is a wave
goodbye. Yet my body retains the gnarl
of you in its aging, your laying-in
a biology the mind cannot claim
except in the past tense & even then
just a guess how the body found
straw & twigs & grass to make a nest,
the concept of a child like a bird
Paul Klee painted inside a head. Intimate
with purpose, your body made me a pot
belly, tending for your every heartbeat
an answer of my own. We galloped
together into waking, into sleep.
I wish now I could visit the past
as you did the Lascaux caves;
the rust bison full-bellied on delicate legs,
deer horns veining the rock face
like rivulets, what those makers made
as homage to the coursing world
I want to feel again, that swelling
awe you felt as ancient hands
stenciled on the cave wall, waved
to you as when you waved at us
from your pod in the ultrasound.
Now an ocean & a virus keep us apart.
Will winter ever end?
Next year if I am here, come back to me.
–> Jane C. Miller
I need to trace this confidently across the page
a rhythmic sweep, from left to right:
what I did and you did not
those scant implacable minutes
pumping your quiet chest
priming an empty well.
It would be best a long stretch of iambs u/u/u/u/u/u/u/u/u/u/
a conscious ordering of downbeat and upstroke
but I’d settle for
dactyls, anapests, anything but /uu/uu/uuuu/uu/uu/…..
this beatless silence .
this full stop. .
–> Susan G. Duncan
Layers, She Wrote
On a breezy-blue December day I opened every window wide and started in on my aunt’s trash. I’d waited to wade through her life until two days after her funeral. This mound of moldering life that was mine alone to see and sunder, a hoarder sea, acidic and cakey. Gusts of wind from the windows riffled piles of junk, as though strangers of air assisted me. There were shoes on plates, perfume, unopened board games, a bell-pepper lamp. There were phone bills in marmalade. There was a cat litterbox. Had she loved these things?
My aunt wrote novellas for me when I was nine, before this sea took her, elves and ponies and elf-tigers. Cat-children. I dug in fear of finding a dead cat. The living-room floor gradually appeared. When I came to the trap door I hesitated. What would she be doing? She’d always had such a big laugh, draping others in it adeptly, oolong-dark eyes brewing amusement, loving people. Would she resent the intrusion?
The trap door stuck at first, grimy in the seams, but I managed to raise it. Fresh air hit me.
My aunt sat at her desk, scribbling. “Dana?” she said, peering up.
“I’m sorry,” I told her. “Things aren’t great up here.” A vase of yellow tulips stood beside her on the pristine desk, syncope to the darker suggestion of vast, clean space stretching away in all directions. Somewhere beyond the well-shaft of winter light that fell in on her, a child chortled in play.
“S’all right, hon. I needed to hand these up.” She tore perforated pages from her notebook and stood on tiptoe, “Stretch now. Don’t make me get up on this desk.”
I took a moment to read that may have been an hour. I wasn’t nine anymore. The story was an adult one, gripping and poignant, like nothing I could ever have written, even before the block I was currently stumbling over. Here were all the things she loved: the husband who deserted her when they were both forty, the unborn child. Scintillations of plot begat tears. A masterpiece. I was in there too.
She’d gone back to writing in the notebook. “I can’t do this,” I told her. “I’ve tried.” I wanted to explain, how the world had begun to break me, break everyone.
“Oh, you’ve just started. Maybe I can help.”
She turned to a new page, contented, and I watched her write On a breezy-blue December day.
I closed the trap door.
The house was sold eventually. New – unwitting – people moved in, but the trap door travels. I have it here in my pocket right now. Would you like to open it?
“At grief so deep the tongue must wag in vain; the language of our sense and memory lacks the vocabulary of such pain.”—Dante Alighieri, Inferno
“Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.”―
You salvage nothing from the wreckage except a towel (hold onto that), a volley ball (optional), and a water-proof jacket with a pocketful of receipts. Check out the receipts.
What do you do now?: