Poems of Grief
Playlist by Drew Myron
Grief is very singular and specific, yet universal; we all experience loss. And in this — love and loss, the most universal of topics — we walk alone, carrying the most familiar and painful of sorrows.
1. Just Before Death Comes
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
2. Separation
W. S. Merwin
3. He said I wrote about death,
Kim Dower
4. God
Michael Ryan
5. Living
Jason Shinder
6. Grief
Richard Brostoff
7. Blessing for the Brokenhearted
Jan Richardson
You want to say,

She was old, she had a good life.

You want to say,

She was treated well.

You want to believe

that death can be tender,

a blessing, a dark and beautiful flower,

and maybe you do say these things,

and all the while

your heart sags, wails,

curls like a cat into itself,

longs to be held

in some great, warm arms

even as you hold out

your own unsteady arms

to hold what can never

be held.
and I didn’t mean to, this was not
my intent. I meant to say how I loved
the birds, how watching them lift off
the branches, hearing their song
helps me get through the gray morning.
When I wrote about how they crash
into the small dark places that only birds
can fit through, layers of night sky, pipes
through drains, how I’ve seen them splayed
across gutters, piles of feathers stuck
together by dried blood, how once my car
ran over a sparrow, though I swerved,
the road was narrow, the bird not quick
enough, dragged it under my tire as I drove
to forget, bird disappearing part by part,
beak, slender feet, fretful, hot,
I did not mean to write about death,
but rather how when something dies
we remember who we love, and we
die a little too, we who are still breathing,
we who still have the energy to survive.
Maybe you're a verb, or some
lost part of speech
that would let us talk sense
instead of monkey-screech

when we try to explain you
to our loved ones and ourselves
when we most need to.
Who knows why someone dies

on the brink of happiness,
his true love finally found,
the world showering success
as if the world were only a cloud

that floated in a dream
above a perfect day?
Are you also dreaming our words?
Give us something to say.
Just when it seemed my mother couldn’t bear
one more needle, one more insane orange pill,
my sister, in silence, stood at the end
of the bed and slowly rubbed her feet,
which were scratchy with hard, yellow skin,
and dirt cramped beneath the broken nails,
which changed nothing in time except
the way my mother was lost in it for a while
as if with a kind of relief that doesn’t relieve.
And then, with her eyes closed, my mother said
the one or two words the living have for gratefulness,
which is a kind of forgetting, with a sense
of what it means to be alive long enough
to love someone. Thank you, she said. As for me,
I didn’t care how her voice suddenly seemed low
and kind, or what failures and triumphs
of the body and spirit brought her to that point—
just that it sounded like hope, stupid hope.
Somewhere in the Sargasso Sea
the water disappears into itself,
hauling an ocean in.

Vortex, how you repeat
a single gesture,
come round to find only

yourself, a cup full of questions,
perhaps some curl of wisdom,
a bit of flung salt.

You hold an absence
at your center,
as if it were a life.
There is no remedy for love but to love more.
– Henry David Thoreau

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound,
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—

as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it,

as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still,

as if it trusts
that its own
persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom
but will save us
nonetheless.
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