Thursday, March 28, 2013

A poem about loss, in time for Good Friday (and my current ill mood)

Dominus Abstulit (The Lord Taketh Away)

The car destroyed, the lover gone, the house
damaged beyond repair, your heart a field
burnt bare and strewn with salt.

The Lord takes away.

This is the first lesson,
carried away from cold
hospital corridors and nights
lit by flames, with shrieking telephones.

Friends and strangers
(the difference minuscule
now, viewed from that infinite remove)
float through your field of vision
and whisper through
their fiery lips like seraphim:
"Don't question,"
cold comfort which at least
is solid ground
to stand on when the earth
begins to crack
and sway beneath you,
and the fluorescent lights
of the waiting room make the ceiling spin.

What was taken will not be returned,

but because the Lord giveth as well,
you will be given rawness in its place,
a wound which will with time
be burnished smooth and bright,
a river-stone
to fill your empty hand.
Expect nothing, and stand over the grave
singing hymns of gratitude that you
at least were spared your death,
if not your life. 

PS. Reading through this, and in response to one person's comment, I realize that at first there appears to be little mention of the possibility of resurrection or hope (I said little, not none; hint--it's the burnished stone of matured, lived grief). Why? Well, one, because I was in a bad mood when I wrote this--but also because, at those 'Good Friday' points in our lives, there often doesn't appear to be any hope. Sure, retrospectively one can say "X was a horrible tragedy, but something good came of it," sort of like Good Friday, after the fact, is labeled 'Good.' But I'm 99% certain that at the time any member of the Jesus crew you asked would have called it "Horrible, awful, terrifying, humiliating Friday." It's normal and human to want to skip ahead to Easter without lingering in the pain and sorrow of Holy Week. On that Sunday morning, there's vindication--the idea that all suffering is redeeming and has meaning; that death is not forever; that every human tragedy contains the seeds of new life and transformation (also there are Cadbury Creme Eggs and those righteously awesome Reese's Easter Eggs). However, we're not there yet, and denying grief, or trying to tamp it down or skip over it, keeps us from resolving it. To truly feel joy, we have to know what sorrow feels like. 

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