A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
What I’m learning about grief is that it comes and goes, like the shadow in front of me on the afternoon sidewalk. What I’m learning, slowly, is to welcome it ̶ morning fog rising from melting snow ̶ and to fear it, knowing it can pool, as a hidden bleed from a fall, or wake me from sleep like a siren at midnight, and all that conjures. What I’m learning about grief is that I carry it: my brother’s last words, his hairbrush in my gym bag, my father’s hey there in my own voice greeting those I love and wish I could embrace. But I also carry grief as ballast ̶ smooth stones or a shell from a favorite beach in a jacket pocket, comforting to hold when I find them tucked there now and again. And these days, when I place the stories of deceased strangers on an imaginary altar of redbud branch and lilac blossom, with a choir of mourning doves, I know that grief is not just epilogue but overture. Author's Note: I wrote this as a response to an NPR “Poetry Prompt” from Kwame Alexander: Start a poem with the line “What I’m learning about Grief”
Kathleen O’Toole’s collections of poetry include This Far (Paraclete Poetry, 2019).
© Kathleen O’Toole, 2021