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Vanessa Redgrave thought whatever separates life and death is tiny as the sliver of a fingernail. She said this not in mourning nor acceptance but matter-of-factly. The occasion was the tenth anniversary of her daughter’s death. The topic was mortality. Fingernail. I remembered Hopkins’s “Moonrise”: I awoke in the midsummer not-to-call night, in the white and the walk of the morning, The moon, dwindled and thinned to the fringe of a fingernail held to the candle Of paring of paradisiacal fruit… A mother’s thoughts about the loss of her daughter rendezvoused with a poetic fragment in a kind of moonlit tryst, a meeting halfway between nowhere and everywhere, as the mind is everywhere and nowhere. Grief slides into an ache that spreads and loops into the rhythm of our mortal days: fears, regrets, joys, hopes; precarious contingencies; that tiny sliver praise. -
Copyright 2020 Rachel Hadas. First published in Hopkins Review Spring/Summer 2020. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.
Rachel Hadas’s many books include Questions in the Vestibule and Poems for Camilla. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the O. B. Hardison Poetry Prize, among other honors. Hadas is Board of Governors Professor of English at Rutgers University–Newark.