Sitting with Grief

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What about

What about the tiny house
And the big fluffy dog
And trips to the south of France?
What about learning a language together?
Learning to code together?
Designing a game together?
What about dancing lessons,
Cooking lessons,
The restaurants on our list?
What about all the promises?
And the future I imagined I would navigate
With your hand clasped in mine
Always with my player two.
What about our dreams, our hopes?
The light at the end of the tunnel,
Which we had been striving towards for so long
What about all the times you said
You would never leave me, never–
And what about
Every I love you that passed your lips
(And mine)
And what about the ocean?
We never swam in it together
God, I never even saw you
In a bathing suit.
I find myself grasping wildly
As if looking for a loophole;
What about all those pinkie swears?
Fumbling with the unfairness of it
But feeling it slip through my fingers like
Handfuls of sand.
Please don’t go.
I’m not ready.

Independence day

Sitting outside on the fourth of July
Watching fire shimmer in the sky
Over the city where we lived
And loved
And lost.
Hearing families laughing,
But not really listening
Fireworks pop and whistle,
But I can’t really hear them
Eyes affixed to the pavement
Vision slowly losing focus until
The bracelet on my wrist
Is a blur of green and purple
My ass is sore from the sidewalk but
I can barely feel it
All I can feel is
The distinct lack of you
And the guilt
That my heart won’t rejoice
Even though I will it to
Even though people cheer around me
I feel like a poison – or maybe more like
A plague victim
Threatening to spread my sadness,
This disturbing contagion,
To everything I touch.

For you, I built
A little birdhouse in my soul
And now it’s an empty nest.
Although I miss company,
And laughter, and touch,
I also fear the day when
Hope, the thing with feathers,
Comes to roost in me
Again.
I am afraid.
I am afraid of forgetting,
Of replacing,
Of moving on.
I am not done loving you
And I will never be
And I don’t know how to
Let go.

But

I daydream – nightdream? – awake
Of dying.
Of the pain being over, at least
Or better yet, of being wrong
About there being nothing after one’s heart stops,
Because maybe that would mean
Seeing your face again.
Maybe I could feel
Your hands in mine, or cupped around
My wet and tired face
Your lips pressed soft against my fevered forehead
Your fingers stroking the bridge of my nose
To calm my heaving sobs.
When I am here, in the pain,
In the loneliness and the shock
The heartache, the emptiness,
It is hard to tear my thoughts away
From the end.
I never imagined what this would feel like.
I was not even capable.
But you made me know.
You made me go,
You made a noose,
And you made me a widow.
It still feels strange on my fingers
(The word has not yet passed my tongue)
But what other word is more true?
I was yours and death took you from me.
I am left with my hat in my hands,
And the sensation of all that I am
Being scraped gratingly out of my chest
With a melon baller.
Gleaming orbs of me, of us,
Slick with blood and gristle
Carefully piled on the dirt
And my belly emptied
Like gutting a fish.
There has never been a deeper cut
Than this one.
And yet your loss has formed
A bitter and painful, yet powerful
Force field around me;
I can never pass this baton of misery
On to someone else.
I know you didn’t want to hurt me this way
But

The Great Flood

Last night as I lay awake
I felt like a prisoner of war —
A war against and inside myself
Which seemed to hold my eyelids open
And show me again and again
Him hanging.
My mind, my intimate captor
Speculated (in graphic detail) about
His final moments and breaths
Made me watch and sob
As he cut the cord
And tied a noose
(Did he know how?
Or did he have to look it up?)
Behind my eyelids played the horror
Of the split second freefall
The snap of vertebrae
The way gravity and momentum
Would make his body spin slowly
No matter how I begged,
I could not stop seeing
The procession of police and coroners
Or stop trying to remember
What he was wearing
How many nights have I lay trapped
Urging myself to sleep, but
Watching his death reenacted
Feeling the pain create spasms
In my soul?
Desperate,
Last night as I lay awake
I begged anyone who would listen
(The ceiling)
(Or a god I don’t believe in)
To send me a dream —
A memory or a fabrication —
Of us, together
Even just a small happiness,
Even an annoyance,
Like his absentminded feet on my chair
As we play
Nuclear Throne.
Just a moment to be in his presence again.
But instead I dreamed of
Ripping off fingernails.
Blood dripping from my hands.
I am afraid if I look inside myself
I will find a flood of sadness
So great it will drown the world.

the waiting

Anxious teeth tear at cuticles
Until I run red which turns to rust.
I sit on a porch at 2 am in New York
Smoking (like you hated) and crying
And watching Steven Universe.
I don’t know what else to do.
I miss you like the plants miss the sun.
I close my blooms
And my chlorophyll slows
And I wait, and wait,
For your return
Which will never come.
Never.
I sit and wonder
If I will see you again when I die.
I wonder if I will be with you.
I don’t know what else to do.

Sleepless ramblings

I wrote poetry about you
Before I even knew your middle name.
Now here I am
Your widow – a strange thing to call myself
But here I am
Clinging to the memories of you like
Spiderwebs, sticky and fragile
Fighting mightily to remember
Your favorite colors
And songs
And books
And places.
They are all fresh and vivid now,
But I feel my breath catch in my chest
Imagining a day when they might fade.
I refuse to let myself forget
I am terrified of losing
Even an ounce of you
To the wind,
Or the sands of time;
I cannot let you disentigrate
And dissipate into nothingness.
I cannot bring myself to let go
Of you and your Colinness
Your raucous laughter like a babbling brook,
The low velvet of your operatic voice
The warm, strong gentleness
of your hands.
I cannot let any of it go.
I want you back.
I am so tired, but I can’t sleep
Without the sweet warm slope of your chest
Joined with my back, and
Your right leg tucked over my left.
I can’t sleep without your breath on my neck
And your arm draped across my waist,
Fingers twined in mine.
I can’t sleep knowing
You are not there.
You swore you would always be there
When I needed you
But look at me now…
I have never needed you more
Than I do now
But I cry alone

Bargaining

I find myself begging
Someone, anyone, to
Turn off the pain.
I have screamed,
When the agony split me open,
Help me.
Crippled by desperation
Unlike anything I’ve felt before
I have found myself
Reexamining everything
Wondering if there is anything
That means something.
Wondering what death is about
And can you hear me?
When I talk to the stars
Who could be ghosts —
For all I know —
Outdated photographs
Echoing across the solar system.
Do you see the way
Sobs contort me into
Strange positions
On the floor in the hallway…
In the too-empty bed
On the toilet?
Do you see the undignified
And terrifying reality
That is settling over me
Like a heavy drift of snow
Chilling to the bone
And sterile white
And muffling all sound?
I can’t stop wondering
But I fear these are questions
Without answers.
I find myself feeling
Like I don’t know what to believe
Anymore
Now that the thing has happened
That thing I feared so much
But can hardly fathom,
And someone has turned off the gravity
And everything is upside down
And I am drifting,
Unmoored and anchorless,
Who am I to say
Which way is up
And if there is anything eternal?
I find myself replaying
The horror movie of that Friday night
In May, and pleading
For a chance to do it over
Asking if maybe, I could have
Changed history.
If maybe, if I stayed —
Or if I called —
Or if I hadn’t been
Too shocked and hurt
To cry,
Maybe things could be different.
I feel the laces holding me together
Come undone, when I hear
Rocky Raccoon
Or smell you in your shirts
Which I still can’t bear to wash
And I fumble helplessly for the off switch
Which is never there.
But as much as my body
Screams for relief,
I do not want to trade pain
For forgetting.
There is no mountain of hurt
I would not climb,
With bloodied feet,
To see you again.

The Garden

I can hear you singing
In the woods
Especially when the trail narrows
And ferns eagerly blanket
The red-needle forest floor
And the tall trees form
Quiet parentheses around me
And all I can think is:
We will never have a garden
But grief plants cruel seeds
In my tender flesh
And little seedlings sprout
Between my muscle fibers
Pain sends down roots
Into my deep tissue and
Migraines blossom in my skull and
Nausea blooms joyously
In my stomach and panic
Tangles its vines
Around my throat
Until I choke and sputter.
Grief is the gardener
And I am the unfortunate field —
And we will never have a garden.