I’m not really sure that this “counts” as a poem (insomuch as one can determine what poetry is or not…and ask me if I truly care!), but it was something that I didn’t write so much as carve out of my soul during a tough time in the past three weeks. I actually typed it out on a cell phone, I was that earnest. In my experience, things written in that heads pace are meant to be preserved and shared, so here you go (or here I go…this is for me too, after all):
There are no boundaries with grief. Gone are the days where we could retreat into the forest to sing mourning songs, paint our faces with cold mud to soothe white-hot agony, and to swallow smooth river rocks to quell our hunger and to keep us on the ground when sadness would carry us away. Now, we are expected to move through our lives as if to acknowledge calamity would be to admit defeat, so we stagger onwards like cowboys in movies who take bullets to their legs and chests, only to beat the bad guys without limping or coughing up blood.
I wake to the phone ringing. It’s been ringing for two days now. It screams at me, conjuring images of alarms and bells, of static-crackling intercoms, and of metal gurneys barging into concrete walls. I hope whoever keeps telephoning forgives me for not picking up: these painful recollections are not a call I want to accept.
I decide that just for today, Khalua for breakfast is self-care.
It’s snowing again. A cab driver tells me that this has been the coldest and longest winter in over thirty years. “A hard winter”, he proclaims this mess of gray skies, driving snow, and minus degrees. “A hard winter” – I try the statement in my own mouth, liking the taste of ice, salt, desolation, and darkness. For the first time in months, I am grateful for windchill, barreness, and slush. Right now, the orange of a carrot would offend me. The green tendrils of some eager plant would infuriate me. Some people give each other flowers when someone dies. Don’t give me lilies and orchids – give me a fistful of bare sticks only just held together by rotting twine.
“Life goes on,” my mother would say when I came to her with skinned knees and a road-rashed heart. It always felt like a cruel invalidation to me, a way to de-legitimize my emotions. Now, I wonder if she was only teaching me a lesson about existence the same way a lioness chases her cub from the tribe or a shark decides to eat her young: Life is no respector of feelings. After all, I may have a hole in my heart, but my hydro bill is still due, there is still conflict between Russia and the Ukraine, and Rape Culture still exists. I am overwhelmed by daily life. I spend ten minutes holding a brick of tofu in my hands, unclear as to why I picked it up in the first place. Standing in line at the bank, unbidden tears chase each other down my cheeks. The exasperated teller sighs, “There’s no reason to cry, Ma’am.”
Perhaps there is no reason to cry, but I still do.
“What do you need?” Kind souls ask me, as if I could somehow articulate myself in a way that does not offend or alienate. What do I need? I need the brutal reality of fist striking bone, a jolt of physical pain that wakes me up. I need to slice off layers of my skin with a chainsaw, to peel away this consuming grief. I need strong hands to hold me down when the howling winds that tear past my lips threaten to toss me about like a kite in a hurricane. Can you help with those things? When her voice bubbles in my ears like a tea kettle on a stove, can you silence it? When I am washing my clothes and I find blood stains on my socks, can you erase them? When I am overcome with guilt because I couldn’t stop it, can you bear that weight for me? When I sift through white powder looking for something that never was, can you convince me I never wanted it in the first place?
I light fires just to watch things burn. I am the mistress of all I destroy – I am in control of every burn hole, every ash, every smear of soot. This is how G-d feels as He shakes sparks all around us, watching us dance and die. Every dry forest needs a careless camper. Every limping gazelle needs a hungry hyena. Every birth requires a death.
And Life will go on.
There are no boundaries with grief. My sorrow does not have state lines. If you won’t let me retreat to weep with the loons, carve my pain into bark, and wipe my tears with lichen, then please, let me be a storm cloud. Let me be dark and angry. Let me rumble. Let me flash with rage and send down torrents of rain. Let me hang heavy. Let me be ominous. Let me be uncontrollable. Maybe in time, the grief will blow away. Maybe in time, I will blow away, little more than the reason your picnic needed to be rescheduled.
This work, “Meditations on Grief”, by Beth Murch, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.