• lenten journal: borrowed

    by  • March 6, 2016 • grief, lenten journal, poetry • 2 Comments

    Tonight, as I went on a relatively futile search for words of my own to share, I found some words by others I am going to borrow tonight. These are not easy poems because they name grief quite well, and in that have offered me comfort. All three of them were new to me. The first is by Taylor Mali called “My Deepest Condiments.”

    I send you my deepest condiments
    was in no way what my old friend
    meant to say or write or send
    the night she penned a note to me
    one week after my father died.

    Not condolences, or sentiments,
    she sent me her deepest condiments
    instead, as if the dead have need
    of relish, mustard, and ketchup
    on the other side.

    O, the word made me laugh
    so hard out loud it hurt!
    So wonderfully absurd,
    and such a sweet relief
    at a time when it seemed

    only grief was allowed in
    after my father’s death,
    sweet and simple laughter,
    which is nothing more than
    breath from so far deep inside

    it often brings up with it tears.
    And so I laughed and laughed
    until my sides were sore.
    And later still, I even cried
    a little more.

    Laughter which “which is nothing more than breath from so far deep inside it often brings up with it tears.” Wow. Breathe deep the breath of God. . . .

    The second is “The Sadness of Clothes” by Emily Fragos, which makes me think of how Ginger made a point of sharing some of my mother’s clothes with her friends.

    When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
    their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
    You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

    as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid
    and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
    You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

    You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
    You tell them how much you miss the spouse
    and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

    You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
    you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
    for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out

    and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
    you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms
    folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,

    or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
    they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
    He is gone and no one can tell us where.

    The last one is “The Needs of the Many” by Brendan Constantine.

    On the days when we wept—
    and they were many—we did it
    over the sound of a television
    or radio, or the many engines
    of the sky. It was rarely so quiet
    we could hear just our sadness,
    the smallness of it
    that is merely the sound of wind
    and water between the many pages
    of the lungs. Many afternoons
    we left the house still crying
    and drove to a café or the movies,
    or back to the hospital where we sat
    dumb under the many eyes
    of Paul Klee. There were many
    umbrellas, days when it refused
    to rain, cups of tea ignored. We
    washed them all in the sink,
    dry eyed. It’s been a while,
    we’re cried out. We collect pauses
    and have taken to reading actual
    books again. We go through them
    like yellow lights, like tunnels
    or reunions, we forget which;
    the older you are the more similes,
    the more pangs per hour. Indeed,
    this is how we break one hour into
    many, how healing wounds time
    in return. And though we know
    there will always be crying to do,
    just as there’s always that song,
    always a leaf somewhere in the car,
    this may be the only sweetness left,
    to have a few griefs we cherish
    against the others, which are many.

    “There will always be crying to do, just as there’s always a song. . . .” I think I’ll sleep on that one.



    Blogging since December 2005


    2 Responses to lenten journal: borrowed

    1. susan woodbohm
      March 6, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      Bless you for sharing words that feel so familiar and so new in the raw battle with daily grief that fails to end no matter the years. Peace be with you….

    2. Kay
      March 7, 2016 at 10:52 pm

      I’m so sorry Milton.

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