A Winter of Loss

When you lose someone,

Your grief winds around you like a heavy scarf.

The weight of it tightens your throat and deadens your words.

It muffles the sounds of people passing on the street,

The sounds of laughter, or cars driving by,

Or the concerned and hesitant inquiries

Of friends. It all sounds the same.

Pain— an endless horizon of blank white snow.

You trudge numbly through the drifts,

The monotony interrupted only

by bright pin-pricks of agony:

Drops of crimson blood, blossoming stark against the snow.

Lost in the blizzard, you think the world has ended.

But no, the world has not stopped, has not paused.

Does not wait on your pain.

Does not see your tears or hear your whimpers in the dark.

The world moves indifferently on.

Only your world ground to halt, stopped spinning on its axis.

Only your sun flared and died.

Only you walk in a twilight winter of loss,

While those around you feel the warm breath of spring.

And that is perhaps the worst betrayal of all.

Autumn’s Torch

My eyes have grown dark of late.
The world I once saw was bright and hopeful and lovely,
but it has become washed over with shades of grey.
I know the world has not changed,
but rather my eyes and the mind that perceives it:
a heart that is muted, dull, heavy,
and nearly blind to beauty.
And just as the last luster seems lost from my vision,
Autumn arrives, torch in hand,
and sets the trees ablaze.
They flame, they burn… for me.
They blaze so brightly, so vividly
that I am forced to remember the world I once knew,
forced to see it, still here, still stunning.
A sky so vibrantly blue,
a sun that paints the horizon with its dying light.
In this last profusion of color before the coming of the night,
the grey is washed from my eyes with tears of gratitude.

NPWM Day 26: Fresh-Cut Flowers

I filled my home with flowers

Bouquets upon bouquets

In every vase I could find

and some make-shift vases as well

Gorgeous gladiolas

in crimson, yellow, white

Hydrangeas overflowing their vases

like clouds, like rising bread

A dozen white roses

holding their secrets close

beckoning you to lean in

and breathe in their mysteries

Bright gerber daisies, joyous

and forthright

I never have fresh flowers

I don’t buy them for myself

But they were going to be thrown out

so I took them by the armful

More than I could ever need

and arranged them, not so skillfully

And for one afternoon,

I was swathed in scent

of lilies and roses and snap-dragons

But like a cut-flower

it didn’t last.

I’m going out of town in the morning

and so I laid out a large plastic sheet

on the floor of my living room

and collected every carefully-cut flower

every arranged blossom

and laid them reverently in a pile.

It felt like laying them on the pyre.

I wrapped them all together in

the smothering plastic

Bundled them tightly

crushing their fragrant, unsullied petals

and threw them in the dumpster.

Is it strange to grieve their

untimely passing?  The waste

of their pristine beauty?

The selfishness of one 

brief afternoon filled with 

fresh-cut flowers?

How Does A Heart Break?

 

How does a heart break?

Is it a glass falling to the ground?

A scatter of shards and

the irredeemable sound

of fractures, too many to repair?

Is it sudden, complete?

Is one left standing

in the circle of glittering pieces

staring at the refracted light,

trembling hands empty, and empty inside?

 

How does a heart break?

Is it the slow shifting of a fault-line,

a grinding pressure, a bit at a time?

Does it compress and harden

under all the weight?

Collapse in on itself, until a great

seismic shudder of energy

surges and presses out

and throws everything around

into chaos?

 

How does a heart break?

Is it a stone in a river,

silent and still?

Letting the persistent waters of grief

wash over it, years upon years,

until the river’s tears

have worn away any definition

and it is smooth and unresisting?

Little by little, day by day,

does it give itself away

so there’s nothing left to take anymore?

So it can’t be robbed

by the constant throb

of pain or loss or longing?

 

How does a heart break?

Is it a glass, a quake, a stone?

Does your heart feel these things?

I know only my own.

 

Stay

If the sun goes dark tomorrow

as it rises in the east

and we plummet into shadow–

Should the earth’s revolving cease–

If the oceans break their borders

and submerge the mountaintops–

If the ground gives way beneath us–

If the timeline simply stops–

In the darkness and confusion

In the chaos and the flame

Let me feel your hand in mine

Let me hear you speak my name

And that will be enough

to help me bravely face the end

We’ll get through the unbearable

Just stay with me, my friend

Speak Into Silence

Your pain rolls off you
Like the deep rumble of thunder
Across flat, wind-whipped fields.
As I sit across the table from you,
My own heart feels the reverberations.
And if I’ve ever longed for eloquence-
For my words to act as healing balm-
It is now.
But as I look in your eyes
And see the bleak despair,
The tinge of betrayal,
I am struck dumb, mute.
No words of life.
No comfort.
I wish I could speak what you need,
But it’s not my voice you need to hear.
And until He speaks
Gentle and low into your silence,
No other words will help.
So I sit and listen with you,
And together we can wait
Until we hear… something.

NPM: Jack and Joy

Inspired by C.S. Lewis’ “A Grief Observed,” in which he chronicles his own grieving process after losing his wife Joy to cancer.

 

A grief that feels like fear

The tight fist of a heart

The sudden cold sweat

Short, shallow breaths

And the edginess of being pursued

The awful moment of waking up in the night

And wondering why the world feels so wrong

That confusion then being eclipsed

By the horror of remembering, realization

 

 

Colors really are flat

Friends once thought charming really are dull

Conversations that might have been interesting

Are now so much empty, grating air

Full of sound and fury,

Signifying nothing

Because when you left,

You took it all with you

 

 

It terrifies me to think

I might regress to the

Pitiful creature I was before you

Before I knew what it was

To be loved by you

And what it was to love you

Even now I feel the creeping thought–

“Maybe it won’t be so bad.

See? You almost felt normal for a moment there.”

Not so bad without a beating heart

Without sight or taste

Not so bad to float in a numb haze,

Only periodically pierced by a thousand hot knives

 

 

I let myself remember you,

But your face is a blurred smudge

How could it be otherwise?

I saw it from every angle,

Gripped with every possible emotion

One image in memory

Could never capture it

Your eyes– I can’t quite recall the color

Only the feeling

And that alone reduces me

to a whimpering child

NPM: Nothing Is Wasted

Every day I stumble

On the road to somewhere

My knees are bloodied

My palms scraped raw

But nothing is wasted

Every embarrassment

Every hesitation

Every doubt overcome

Every ounce of pain

And disappointment

It is all transformed

And used for my good

Nothing is wasted

 

Every day I push myself up

On the road to somewhere

A moment of fortitude

An exertion of will

And nothing is wasted

Every unseen victory

Every unspoken hope

Every secret generosity

Every well-done task

And unrecognized potential

They are all accounted for

And acknowledged by God

And nothing is wasted

NPM: Run

Some days this world makes you want to keep on running

and never stop till you get somewhere better.

The same words endlessly repeated on the nightly news:

“Senseless”

“Horrific”

“Violence”

“Terror”

Are these the themes of our stories?

It seems so.

Our narratives have become senseless,

and we write them in blood.

Some days the voices of deranged, broken people

are the only ones we can hear

because they’re screaming the loudest and longest

and they punctuate their tirades with explosions.

Must we always harmonize with their cacophony?

God, I’m sick of this song.

Change the station.

Change it all.

When I think of peace

the word feels so hollow

so distant

Where is the peace that was promised?

“My peace I give to you.”

Is it simply inner peace?

I’m sorry, but

a lot of good that does

when the world is on fire.

But then I’m reminded to “look for the helpers,”

to dream of a world where there are

“no more hurting people.”

And despite our own wickedness, that world is coming.

It is a seed planted deep, already growing,

soon to break out of the soil.

And no matter how hard we wish

how loudly we weep

how bitter we become

how vengeful we act

how strongly we pray

we cannot make a plant grow before its time.

We can only wait.

And I know it’s worth waiting for,

but some days I swear

this world makes me want to run.