Knee-jerk

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4.18 Knee-jerk

I see us express our sadness
Only to be told told we are sad about the wrong thing
Or that our grief is misplaced
Knee-jerk reactions
To the sense that a perspective is skewed
The wool has been pulled over one’s eyes
Leaving them to weep as babies do
When mommy leaves the room.
How lovely, to be smart enough to know
The best use of other peoples’ tears.
Grief is not a zero sum game,
Nor is empathy.
There is no scale of proper sorrow.
Her dead cat and his dead faith are allowed to coexist.
If anything, since neither exists anymore,
They are more alike than they were before.
Pause before you kick out a pithy reminder
Of how misguided those tears are.
Allow for personal mourning.
At least for forty-eight hours, please.

***

I found myself really bothered by the backlash on my social media about those of us sad for Notre Dame. One post in particular drew my attention – a smug little tweet assuming that the people weeping for Notre Dame were blind and callous towards the immigration crisis or other tragedies. No. No! Grief is not a zero sum game (the inspiration line for today’s piece). I can recognize tragedy regardless of where it is.

(I know the backlash is more towards the Church / obscenely rich people – fine with that. But don’t lump all the mourners into an ignorant glob.)

This week the poetry has been difficult to find…

Three minutes, forty-six seconds

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“Would you like to go out tonight? Said Tristan to Isolde…”
I am sitting in a corner, writing
Looking at an old cranberry couch with two brightly striped pillows
Fiesta-ware fabric resting after the festivities
A dining table covered in bottles
“God I love you, but you trouble me…”
Two dingy socked feet, sticking out from under a cream-colored blanket
A beautiful, untouchable arm grazing the floor
And a poor girl, unable to do more than gaze and write
“It’s ok I guess, but that story’s pretty old…”
Sitting wistful in a sunny patch of a small room
Afraid of time
The perfect length of a self-preserving memory
A curio-cabinet feature in the making
To be dusted off for future cherishing
This memory should not last longer than a song
“Said Tristan to Isolde…”

Observing Death at a Sickbed

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I can see you, though I don’t know what to call you in passing.

You are not an angel, but you are not a monster.

A shadow without darkness,

A solemn thing without judgment.

I can see you, old bird, faceless man,

I know you smile gently.

I tried screaming at you.

But you did not hear me

I wept at you and begged.

But you did not see me.

I raged.

But you did not need me.

Now I nod and smile gently in return

Now we catch each other in the corners of our eyes.

So you are with us again

A caressing, skeletal hand

Down a dress,

Cupping a breast,

Murmuring eternal nothings in an ear –

We cannot hear those teeth

Those tongueless mouths.

Hearts drown out the sound.

The Italian Renaissance showed it best-

A voluptuous woman

In a yellow gown

Braided hair and rosy lipped

A bag of bones draped around her shoulders,

A hand gently plucking back a bodice

This is the particular beauty that we cannot see

Not life but death

Nor life yet death

But life and death

The constant, the beautiful truth

The unchanging and informal caress

Of a promise which is always kept.

I wonder – will I see you when you drape your arms around me?

It would not be a bad thing

To track your progress in the room

To count your steps to my side

Perhaps that would be better than being tackled by you on a highway

HansBaldung