Tuesday, February 17, 2009

For Ray's family

Describe Your Grief
by Tom Hawkins

I am driving a back road
where there are still farms,
fenced cattle, tobacco barns.

I can’t describe my grief,
unless it’s like marching
into a lost war, folding clothes by numbers,
waiting in rank for breakfast
beneath the steamy electric lights
before dawn, crawling in a cave
that hasn’t been mapped.

I round a curve and see two birds
flapping in the road.
One has been hit
by a car, and its mate
flutters just above,
wild to inspire
its fallen partner’s flight.

When Anna was ill,
I would have seen her as the fallen bird,
injured in the road, as I hovered,
watching her struggles,
urging her to fly on broken wings.

But now she is gone,
with our marathon conversations,
her startling questions.

And I don’t know
which of those two birds
I am.

The other day I came across this poem, which I'd saved on my flash drive (originally published in The Sun). It's so real, I thought I should share it. I could just see the two birds on the road. Tears blurred my vision, feeling their pain of loss. About two years ago, when I was camping in Eastern Oregon, I pulled out of my campsite early in the morning. As I came around a bend in the gravel road, I saw a raccoon on the roadside acting strangely, moving in and out of the road like she couldn’t decide what to do. From afar, I was intrigued by her behavior. “Maybe there’s food on the road”, I thought. But as I came closer, I could see her little baby in the center of the road. A car must have hit the baby and now the mom was distraught, not knowing what to do. And some say animals have no feelings.

I know there’s some of you out there for whom the pain of grief is raw. It gets better, but the scar remains forever.

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