Tag Archives: grief poetry

All Hallow’s Eve, Sheldon Vanauken

Tonight, while weighing wild winged hope with fears

Of loss, again the girl’s voice crying gay

And sweet – O playmate of lost pagan years! –

Comes ringing in the glory of the May.

O singing beauty! Singing though there nears

The moment of all finding and all loss:

Together in our laughter and our tears,

Wind-driven to the centre where ways cross.

Rose garden in blue night, where souls embraced

In holy silence, timeless ecstasy:

Truth grew between us, final beauty laced

The stars, and awed we knew eternity.

A secret sharing passed from eye to eye:

In death the singing beauty does not die.

-Sheldon Vanauken

The Book of Lamps, being a psalm-book

Came across this exquisite poem on Cellpoems and had to post it. From poet Jeffrey Pethybridge – “The Book of Lamps, being a psalm-book” is part of a book-length sequence entitled “Striven, The Bright Treatise,” which was written in the wake of my brother’s suicide at the Golden Gate Bridge in the winter of 2007. This excerpt from “The Book of Lamps” represents a fourth of the full poem; in its entirety, the poem is composed of 128 stanzas with each quarter attaining––as in the interrelated movements of symphonic structure––its own shape and theme.

I.

Drug-tired, at a loss, above the lucid waves.

II.

Palms rested on the railing (like anyone
looking out at the Pacific sun-set).

III.

Palms pressed against the railing, the      last
solid thing held, the limit touched—
drug-tired from the chronic drag of days.

IV.

Palms open to the light-
ness in letting go: liberty, relief—
but also plummeting and irrevocable;
the waves, unsparing.

V.

Palms pressed flat up
against the wailing wall
in your gut, ulcerous,
pocked by guilt, shame—
secret pains in being.

VI.

Palms open and upturned,
good little supplicants,
what is their (secret) prayer?—
what is open to praise?

VII.

Candor?—the grace of accuracy
to say what happened? Facts
merely disclosed by the Angel
of the Police Report?

VIII.

The right note to elicit
briny-air?—or that thick beach-chill
along the skin at dusk? The nouns
to summon it.

IX.

The fall is four seconds long, the body
reaches a speed upwards of—as physics
describes the case.

X.

(The truth is I know the truth is
made through work: lucid, unsparing).

Read the rest at Cellpoems

 

How It Will Happen, When

There you are, exhausted from a night of crying, curled up on the couch, the floor, at the foot of the bed, anywhere you fall you fall down crying, half amazed at what the body is capable of, not believing you can cry anymore. And there they are, his socks, his shirt, your underwear and your winter gloves, all in a loose pile next to the bathroom door, and you fall down again. Someday, years from now, things will be different, the house clean for once, everything in its place, windows shining, sun coming in easily now, sliding across the high shine of wax on the wood floor. You’ll be peeling an orange or watching a bird spring from the edge of the rooftop next door, noticing how, for an instant, its body is stopped on the air, only a moment before gathering the will to fly into the ruff at its wings and then doing it: flying. You’ll be reading, and for a moment there will be a word you don’t understand, a simple word like now or what or is and you’ll ponder over it like a child discovering language. “Is,” you’ll say over and over until it begins to make sense, and that’s when you’ll say it, for the first time, out loud: He’s dead. He’s not coming back. And it will be the first time you believe it.

-Dorianne Laux

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