I won’t act like I know what love is or write so certainly of it. I know I have, and do often think of it, but so far every grand epiphany reminds me how vast of a concept love is. I can speak of heartbreak and the beautiful breaking down the parts of ourselves to witness, or discover, something more vulnerable, true, and honest. As Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “How else might my heart be opened if not first broken?” While I know there are other ways to self-discovery that don’t involve heartache, I believe in the the necessary yet mysterious and all too often doubtful process of retreating and becoming introspective after a time of loss. These are five poems that secure my place in the world of knowing some sort of grief. These are five poems that secure my place in the world of self-love and letting go.
Right now, there is that compelling drive
to make those twenty-something hours to Tennessee,
to run along the low-hum of dreary mountains
into New England and on over to New York,
To take my time coming back, through the quiet rocky forests
To all those pieces of my heart I left behind in each place,
and not to ask a single one to come back
but to ask each one for forgiveness—
Look, some love is lost now.
So much of that was letting go of
myself, and then not knowing myself well
Enough, is sometimes the most loving of words
to tell me to be still; I would not listen, but
to tell me how this was perfect, enough—the way it was,
to tell me you wouldn’t change a thing.
I would stop then and wouldn’t be able to
leave, this time, so easily or so soon.
You could go back home, if you had one.
You could crawl back inside,
through the stacks of wrinkles,
in hopes to sort through the parts of your past you’re not proud of
But would you get very far?
Would you dare / even / to look deeply, possibly
only to find the very darkness
that you conceded lived inside you?
There is something in there, though.
Would you recognize your own home
If you were to imagine a light
shining on all the walls inside of you?
Would you find that the walls, not laced in arsenic,
are pink, not red
are the result of clean, clear water
and only hold your family’s favorite heirlooms
You would find that those walls weren’t built
But bound by every needle that cut through you
and a thread, following miles behind,
so fine it’s easy to miss or to ignore.
Nothing lasts inside forever—doesn’t the body rid itself of toxins?
How else, I wonder, have you managed to stay standing for all this time?
Can you deny it?
In spite of the fears that keep somethings feeling toxic,
there was some part of you always knowing,
believing, that there was a reason
to pull every mile of thread
tightly after each needle.
You cannot turn around ten years later with an answer,
cannot bring the flavors of nostalgia back to your lips
even with the sweetest of salt
For a time, I felt an affinity for the overlooked dull colors of dawn,
how they contrast and enliven the warmth and hope of the bright, bright morning.
Mostly, since, I cannot keep from combining and comparing tones.
I keep to the cool, shady parts of the day, afraid of becoming burned.
But tell me, humor me, you say,
What was the answer you had to share?
And have you found the sweet salt among the earth?
Does it please you constantly
or must you still hack and grind at its walls
to feed the part of you that insists on feeling young?
This, to you, may only seem a stale story
as I walk by the scent still seemingly fresh in the air,
I cannot turn around now, ten years later, and offer an answer,
the tears, you see, have already dissolved the sweet salt in me.
IV. (for grandpa)
Take the road
Down to the end of the drive
There’ll be an ivy-grown house
where I know things keep slow
Where a kitchen settles for eggs and toast,
And old news keeps the basement full,
Where the houseplants fill up the windowsills
To watch the seasons change, singing mute songs
With the ears like the ones my grandfather has,
and his smile that stretches when he yawns—
I don’t need to knock at the door
Just be mindful of the old dog lounging behind
The houseplants will stretch over to see who’s at the door
Smile and appreciate the word on anyone’s mind
Happy to take whatever care I can offer
Until I’m out the door again,
“I’m on my way,”
and the houseplants nod, knowing
“Okay. Next week then.”
Seems like every week the houseplants need water
every week they need to know someone care.
but after a year of this care-giving, I’ve learned how
Precious the things aren’t all that rare, how
fast the creek runs in the spring, how
Slow crops grow in the summer, how
Shadows seem to creep faster later in the year,
Until so quickly comes winter.
I try to remember when those houseplants first bloomed overnight
How I know I will miss these moments later
So, on the one day it rains— when the houseplants die in their pot
I won’t be placing seeds in pots just to remember
I’ll be glad to know I was able to be there
Though I know we will miss them in our lives,
I’ll take the drive slow, later down the road,
Care rushing down from my eyes.
—Later Down the Road
There is no poem,
this is only me willing to sit
and listen to anything you need to say.
—there is no advice to console grieving.