Poetry Sunday: of Grief and Wild Geese

I really like sharing poetry, but have not always found a great forum for it.  Eventually, I’d like to have a poetry group where people get together and share poetry written by others, as well as stuff they’ve written themselves.  The first poem I’ve posted, by Emily Dickinson, is one I identified with very closely for a long time.  The second is one of my own, regarding my grandmother’s death from ovarian cancer in 2005.  It’s pretty heavy, as I was in such a dark place at the time.  The title is a play on my grandmother’s name, Alma, as well as the Dia de las Almas, or All Souls’ Day.  In Latin American cultures this time is often referred to as el Dia de los Muertos, and it is meant to celebrate the departed with crazy festivals and raucous partying.  I am thinking of writing a follow-up to my poem, that will be more celebratory in nature. Below that is a much more gentle and hopeful poem by Mary Oliver.  I have found very comforting her ability to transmute her own pain, including that of the loss of her partner, and continue to create beautiful observations of nature and God.  “Wild Geese” is just about perfect.

I realize I’ve been focusing more on the dark than on the light in the blog recently.  The funny thing is, I feel so much lighter now.  But, just as I’m cleansing myself of inner anger with a 40-day kundalini yoga meditation, I am also cleansing myself of old depression through catharsis.  Spring cleaning my brain, if you will!

I measure every Grief I meet

 
by Emily Dickinson

I measure every Grief I meet 

With narrow, probing, eyes-

I wonder if It weighs like Mine-

Or has an Easier size.

I wonder if They bore it long-

Or did it just begin-

I could not tell the Date of Mine-

It feels so old a pain-

I wonder if it hurts to live-

And if They have to try-

And whether-could They choose between-

It would not be-to die-

I note that Some-gone patient long-

At length, renew their smile-

An imitation of a Light

That has so little Oil-

I wonder if when Years have piled-

Some Thousands-on the Harm-

That hurt them early-such a lapse

Could give them any Balm-

Or would they go on aching still

Through Centuries of Nerve-

Enlightened to a larger Pain-

In Contrast with the Love-

The Grieved-are many-I am told-

There is the various Cause-

Death-is but one-and comes but once-

And only nails the eyes-

There’s Grief of Want-and grief of Cold-

A sort they call “Despair”-

There’s Banishment from native Eyes-

In sight of Native Air-

And though I may not guess the kind-

Correctly-yet to me

A piercing Comfort it affords

In passing Calvary

To note the fashions-of the Cross-

And how they’re mostly worn-

Still fascinated to presume-

That Some-are like my own-

el Dia de la Alma

by Kate Curlee

Trussed up in pretty pajamas and diamond earrings,

Your carefully coiffed hair felt flat as your spirit left.

It seeped out in doses, it ebbed away in waves.

My tender goodbyes and lame jokes ceased producing smiles

and left only twitches of slack muscle.

You spoke to us in sighs until there was no breath left.

In the holy church of the dying,

we prayed for the nearly-departed around an altar draped in vestments of hospital sheets.

It was your wake, and I knew the time had come to wish you on your way.

 

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain

are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees,

the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,

are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

 
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