I think in grief, to return to simplicity is the only way to seek restoration, to find healing, to cope, to comfort one another.
The sound of your loved one’s steady breath,
a clock as it flicks mutely in the dark,
a bed that is our own.
Last week I shared a poem of mine over at Write Practice as Part II of a our dialogue on good poetry. [I was a bit preoccupied, so my apologies for the late linkage.] My process for writing poetry is very visceral. My initial thoughts are what get written, and editing comes much later. The one that I’ve shared is in its infancy – naked as a newborn, in fact. It has a lot of maturing to do, so I need your critiques and comments.
Today’s poem was written by Write Practice blogger Joe Bunting, and we’re bringing a little bit of the Write Practice process to Writes & Rights. This is Part I of a two-post dialogue about what makes a poem good. Tomorrow I’ll share a new poem I’ve written over at Write Practice, but for today, we’re looking for constructive criticism on Joe’s piece. So share your thoughts- what parts of Joe’s poem stick with you, resonate and tap into your innermost thoughts? Or does it? What parts of the poem are effective, and what parts need work? Do the imagery and message behind it speak clearly through Joe’s language? Join the conversation about good poetry.
Where are you?
Do you see that white bird
in the red branches of the shrub?
“Good poems tend to incorporate some story, some cadence or shadow of story… You could, without much trouble, commit these poems to memory and have them by heart, like a cello in your head, a portable beauty to steady you and ward off despair.”
It’s late and I’m exhausted. I am soul tired and bone tired and trying hard to grasp onto the good things and face reality, such as it is. Mom sleeps next to me, here in our own quiet room of a fifth floor oncology wing. For a few hours this evening she was coherent, ate a small bowl of soup and her headache was gone, her fever was down, her levels looked good. A glimmer of hope.
I don’t know what to think about anything. I don’t have a lot of words to say. And for the first time in a month, I don’t have a paintbrush in my hand.
I have memories, good ones. I have prayers. I have a whole host of angels that call, text, tweet, message, and show up live and in person to love on us and ease the pain. And I have these little links of happiness that have made hard days a little brighter. I hope you enjoy them as I have. If you found a good link this week, do share.
And a random comfy chair I’d love to curl up in right about now.
There are a hundred more moments like this one built up in my head : the time when, reading aloud in front of my advanced composition class, I stumbled over the same phrase in my own essay several times before finally reading it right. The time when another art professor walked into the quiet and mostly empty art studio and criticized my painting, even though I wasn’t his student. The time that I cut my own finger while slicing bread with Erica for dinner – I nearly passed out and she had to bandage my finger for me.
I’m working to break down the walls I’ve built around myself, to bare my thin skin and share my art with others, no matter how painful the process, no matter how raw it makes me.
What I Learned from My Mother
by Julia Kasdorf
I learned from my mother how to love
the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
in case you have to rush to the hospital
with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.
I learned to attend viewings even if I didn’t know
the deceased, to press the moist hands
of the living, to look in their eyes and offer
sympathy, as though I understood loss even then.
I learned that whatever we say means nothing,
what anyone will remember is that we came.
I learned to believe I had the power to ease
awful pains materially like an angel.
Like a doctor, I learned to create
from another’s suffering my own usefulness, and once
you know how to do this, you can never refuse.
To every house you enter, you must offer
healing: a chocolate cake you baked yourself,
the blessing of your voice, your chaste touch.
Fifty percent of the profits from each sale will be donated to my mom to help her as she continues to pay off her medical debt. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and was later diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2002. Since being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she has undergone a variety of treatments and surgeries, and spent much of 2011 in the hospital. [Read more about my mom's story here.] This is my way to honor her, and help her in a way that I am able. [In case you were wondering, yes, she does think I'm crazy for offering this, but since I inherited her stubbornness, she can't stop me.]
The Ripe Word is going green. I’m currently researching materials to make this an eco-friendly business. Paint, paper, ink, mat frames, packaging, and business cards are all on my list of to-find. If you’re an artist that works with these materials and can give me good recommendations, I am all ears.