Issue 21: Grief

Single Issues > 2011 > Issue 21: Grief

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Notes

Editor’s
From You
Poetry Prize
Artist’s
Contributors’
Last

Poetry

Adrianne Smith: In Bridgewater, my room; El Mission San Esteban del Ray; On Home
Kendra Langdon Juskus: Suspension
Matthew Burns: My Fifth-Grade Teacher, Mr. Dolan, Tells Us About Menstruation
Michelle Tooker: One Month After Miscarriage
Christopher Martin: Antidote to Narcissus
Beth Paulson: And Now I Touch a Match to New-Laid Wood
David Feela: In Praise of Insulation
Maureen Doyle McQuerry: Good Friday
David Oestreich: Crucifixion of Saint Peter
Mary Kathryn Wiley: Mamie-Belle
Elizabeth Biller Chapman: Wild Cilantro
Bethany Carlson: Elegy for the Star Struck
Tania Runyan: How Great a Struggle I Have For You
Dyana Herron: To Robert Ripley

Nonfiction

Jessie van Eerden: So Great a Cloud
Tyler McCabe: Something Carries Through

Fiction

Nancy Priff: Woman Underwater

Review

D.S. Martin: Torn Again: A Review of Every Riven Thing by Christian Wiman

Visual Art

Joel Sheesley: Angle of a Dream, Portage, Dream at a Crossroads, Morning at Bethel, Messenger, Neither Height nor Depth, Hold on to Your Dream
Deborah Sheldon: Dad’s Gone Home, The Leaving Is the Hard Part
Sarah McFalls: Down the Road

EXCERPTS from Issue 21: Grief

EDITOR’S NOTE

Editor’s Note : Grief

Grief. Suffering. Let’s face it—they’re not very reader-friendly topics in today’s market. The staff and I actually wondered if hosting an issue on this theme might be too heavy, if the topic might discourage folks from reading the magazine.

I was thinking about this as I walked my son to his first day of kindergarten. He bawled and bawled, begging me to not leave him. My heart broke for him, and I realized, this too is a kind of grief. He, grieving his loss of the familiar and comfortable. “Let’s just go home and come back tomorrow,” he says to me. And me, grieving the passage of time—my baby with his big dinosaur backpack and the large crocodile tears falling down his cheek. And yet, when I picked him up from his first day, he came barreling out of the classroom telling me “It was great, Mom—we had three recesses!”

As my son reminds me, yes, we’re resilient. But that doesn’t excuse an oblivious eye or attempts to avoid the heavy, and it doesn’t mean that the three recesses cancel out the tears of the morning. We all experience moments, seasons, and even years of heart wrenching, but if we’re honest, we’d rarely choose to sit with grief, or even sadder, we’d rarely choose to sit with those grieving.

But in the hands of artists, a difficult topic can be given handles, places to hold on to. And while we’re holding, the artist can point our vision to something we might not have seen before or place our fingers on something we thought too difficult to touch. This is true of the talented contributors gathered here, who had a lot to say about grief. Grief that exists in divorce, death, goodbyes, lost babies, lost love, disease, or just feeling lost—reminding us all of the pain of this world but also of the beauty that can exist in the ashes.

So here it is. Issue 21. Heart-wrenching, lovely, and full of cries . . . even howls, I suppose. (I love what Dyana Herron points out in the adjacent “Notes From You”—that King Lear’s “Howl, howl, howl, howl” may be the most honest articulation of grief.) And the cries are not alone. These pages are moving examples of weeping with those who weep. To me, this solidarity and community is hopeful. Perhaps when we practice weeping with those who weep we are then even more equipped to rejoice with those who rejoice.

And we do rejoice with Adrianne Smith, winner of the 2011 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize, and with all the finalists poets. Naomi Shihab Nye was the finalist judge this year, and it was an honor to have her reading and selecting the winners. She wrote this about Adrianne’s winning poem, “In Bridgewater, my room”: “A deft, moving, potent poem. Understated, it carries its threads gracefully—room, song, train, someone departing—the grace of this poem’s music, and haunted beauty of its content, made this one really stand out.” We couldn’t agree more, and we were even further inspired to create this issue on grief because of Adrianne’s poem, a poem that reminds us that some day we will all be carried home.

Yes. We could stand to have our hearts moved, even wrenched a little more often. Not because we’re trying to find drama or seek tragedy, but because we want to be softened to the suffering (and the joys) of this world. And because we so desire what Matthew Burns describes as “a soft hand on [our] cheek / and soothing, bloodless words / we [are] all straining to hear.”

We are grateful for the handles,

Brianna Van Dyke

Editor-in-Chief

Adrianne Smith: IN BRIDGEWATER, MY ROOM

Adrianne Smith

In Bridgewater, my room

was set in the front of the house,
overlooking the yard.
The hillside fell gently to the road below
and to the Beaver River that
slipped easily between the hills.
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 One night my father in a whisper, sang—
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 swing low, sweet chariot, coming for
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 to carry me home.

And afterwards, I stood at the window and stared
down the lights casting long glares
into the river. I pushed
the sash up, the night air breathing
on my face, I squinted my eyes.
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 The beams stretched into stars—
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 long tails of light cut through the darkness,
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 joined together, and snaked in the sky.

And I listened for the train,
lumbering down the tracks behind my house,
the whistle first, both deep and shrill,
and then the rattle of metal. I stood,
lingered in its sound. With its passing,
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 I hummed the last of the song—
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 a band of angels coming after me,
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 coming for to carry me home.

The train carried on and crossed the river,
moved off to shake the bones of other homes.
The engine light blazed in the water and the whistle
hung in the air, reached out to the city’s edge
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 where my mother slept alone—
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 the hospital floors heavy above her head
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 and her sleep slow in coming.

“In Bridgewater, my room” is the winning poem selected by judge Naomi Shihab Nye for the 2011 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize.

Adrianne Smith, originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico, moved to Jackson, Mississippi, to study art and creative writing at Belhaven University. She graduated this spring, and now manages a Chinese restaurant to pay the bills. She was awarded honorable mention in the 2009 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and second place for poetry in the 2010 Southern Literary Festival.

D.S. Martin: TORN AGAIN

Torn Again

Review of Every Riven Thing, by Christian Wiman (Farrar, 2010)
Reviewed by D.S. Martin

In the Spring of 2010, I attended one of my favorite events—The Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. When I learned Christian Wiman—editor of Poetry Magazine—would be speaking, I marked that session in my program. For me, it turned out to be one of the highlights of the conference. That morning he spoke of his journey, and his perspectives on art and faith. Even though I soon sought out Wiman titles in one of the bookstores, it was his upcoming poetry collection Every Riven Thing that I was particularly looking forward to. In this, Christian Wiman’s third poetry collection, we see a poet who balances his playful love of language with his desire to have that language communicate something worth saying. He plays with rhyme and partial rhyme in the opening poem, “Dust Devil”—“Mystical hysterical amalgam of earth and wind / and mind”—letting the sound propel us down the page.

He plays with the pairing of similar words, and with the associations of homonyms in our minds. In “Hermitage” he says of one character, he “wrought it all into a tenuous, tenacious form.” The word “wrought” here draws us back to a reference in the poem to working with iron; similarly, just after using a bell as a simile, he says, “He wrung / from time a time to vanish / back.”

Wiman seeks to work out theological questions throughout the book—and in the title poem, in particular, he examines the relationship between the Creator and his creation:

God goes, belonging to every riven thing he’s made
sing his being simply by being
the thing it is:
stone and tree and sky,
man who sees and sings and wonders why.

And this is a world where we are torn, and where much of creation is torn, and as the Apostale Paul tells us, is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:22).

Christian Wiman strives with words to make them say what, in such a concise space, they might not be able to say. Sometimes he brings us with him with fascinating results, and sometimes he leaves us behind, scratching our heads. In the case of a series of seven poems entitled “Not Altogether Gone,” it would have helped to have known up front that he is writing about the illness and death of his father; this only fully came to me from external sources. This is no sentimental portrait, but then again, even knowing the context, I don’t feel invited in enough to experience much of the man.

There are many poems, however, that sing in differing ways. In some, he’s a fine storyteller; in some, he’s skilled in making and breaking poetic structures; in some, he speaks with profound simplicity.
Sometimes the significance he seeks comes in the form of memories of his childhood in West Texas. Consider the stories in poems such as “Sitting Down to Breakfast Alone” and “Five Houses Down.” The first is about a long-since-torn-down diner, in a long-abandoned town that only exists in the poet’s memory. The latter is about a neighbor whose yard was a scrapheap containing the “eyesore opulence / of his five partial cars” and a “wonder-cluttered porch.”

Christian Wiman’s first collection appeared in 1998. The Long Home was a strong debut, with many of the techniques he employs in Every Riven Thing already present. Much has happened in Wiman’s life since then. In 2003 he was appointed the editor of the influential, Chicago-based magazine Poetry. After this coup, however, he hit a discouraging snag; his poetic stream ran dry. For more than a year he seemed unable to write any poetry at all.

According to Kevin Nance of Poets & Writers, four significant things then happened in quick succession in Wiman’s life: 1) He fell in love with and married fellow-poet Danielle Chapman; 2) he was diagnosed with a rare, incurable blood cancer; 3) after years in the spiritual wilderness, he returned to God and the church; and 4) after three years of struggling, his ability to write poetry returned. All of these experiences contribute to Every Riven Thing.

Enduring cancer treatments and facing his own mortality come to mind when reading of a wind-blasted apple sapling in “After the Diagnosis” or when reading the prayer “This Mind of Dying”: “God let me give you now this mind of dying / fevering me back / into consciousness of all I lack.” The poet’s cancer unpredictably vacillates between active and dormant, and his prognosis is equally unknown.

It is obvious from his poems that Wiman does not like God-talk—having been raised in a family awash with it—although he constantly speaks of God throughout the collection. I think he fears to speak pat phrases that haven’t earned their place, or to be identified with those who speak this way. In the first part of “One Time” he says, “To believe is to believe you have been torn / from the abyss, yet stand wavering on its rim.” This is where Wiman finds his uncomfortable home.

His uneasiness with an oversimplified faith is evident by the self-debate that resurfaces from poem to poem: “Sometimes one has the sense / that to say the name / God is a great betrayal,” he tells us in “Gone for the Day, She is the Day.” And elsewhere he says, “I say God and mean more / than the bright abyss that opens in that word” (“One Time”)—and still elsewhere he proposes that his “tongue / be scrubbed . . . if I should utter / the dirty word / eternity” (“Lord of Having”). Similarly, like the kid in Sunday school who doesn’t want to be lumped in with the conformers, he frequently proves to us he hasn’t forgotten how to cuss: “. . . given all hell / to a god who given time / knew goddamn well / what to do with it.”

Even so, it’s often on the dark edge of doubt where faith’s beauty shines—often in the soil of real questions where answers bloom. I value Every Riven Thing when Wiman celebrates the good things of God, but I equally value the book when he has the guts to acknowledge the struggle. As John Donne once prayed, “Batter my heart, three-personed God,” so Wiman prays, “. . . shatter me God into my thousand sounds” (“Small Prayer in a Hard Wind”).

He does not conclude with conclusions, but with room for each reader to continue to freely move through these poems again and again, for themselves.

To love is to feel your death
given to you like a sentence,
to meet the judge’s eyes
as if there were a judge,
as if he had eyes,
and love.

—“Gone for the Day, She is the Day”

D.S. Martin is a poet and teacher. He and his wife have two virtually grown sons, and live just north of Toronto. He’s the award-winning author of two poetry collections—Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). Visit his website: www.dsmartin.ca and his weekly blog about Christian poetry—www.kingdompoets.blogspot.com.

CONTRIBUTORS’ NOTES

Contributor’s Notes

Matthew Burns holds a PhD in creative writing from Binghamton University where he was a managing editor of Harpur Palate. His poem “Rhubarb” won the 2010 James Hearst Poetry Prize and his other poems and essays have appeared in Folk Art, Ragazine, Spoon River Poetry Review, Memoir (and), and others. He is an assistant professor of English at Heritage University. As he writes this, he is two days into a 2700-mile drive between New York and Washington State.

Bethany Carlson is an MFA candidate at Indiana University and an associate poetry editor for the Indiana Review. She has poems forthcoming in The Cream City Review and The Bellingham Review. Access more of her brain’s meandering rabbit trails on Twitter @bcarlson518.

Born in Boston in 1943, Elizabeth Biller Chapman lives and works in Palo Alto, California. Her work has appeared in Sand Hill Review, Water-Stone Review, and Poetry, among others. Her chapbook, Creekwalker, was published by (M)other Tongue Press (1995). Robert Creeley selected her poem, “On the Screened Porch,” originally presented in Poetry, for inclusion in Best American Poetry, 2002. She has seen two full-length collections into print: Candlefish (University of Arkansas Press, 2004) and Light Thickens (Ashland Poetry Press, 2009). Now retired, she previously worked as a college teacher of Shakespeare and a psychotherapist in private practice.

David Feela has been writing in the attic since retiring from his high school teaching gig. His newest book of essays, How Delicate These Arches: Footnotes from the Four Corners, will be available this fall from Raven’s Eye Press, or by leaving a self-addressed stamped envelope outside his attic door.

Dyana Herron is a Tennessee native who now lives in Philadelphia, after stopovers in Atlanta, Boston, and Seattle. She is a graduate of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA in creative writing and for the past two years has been a regular contributor to Image Journal’s Good Letters omniblog.

Kendra Langdon Juskus is a writer and editor and a student in the Spalding University MFA program. She was a finalist for the 2010 Janet McCabe Poetry Prize, and in addition to Ruminate, her writing has appeared inFlourish, Catapult, PRISM, and Books & Culture. Originally from New York’s Hudson River Valley, she is enjoying the wide skies and fertile gardening ground of Illinois, where she lives with her husband, Ryan.

Christopher Martin lives in Acworth, Georgia, with his wife Deana and son Cannon in an old house between Red Top Mountain to the north and Kennesaw Mountain to the southeast. Chris is a graduate student at Kennesaw State University, and his writing has appeared in Still: The Journal, Loose Change Magazine, New Southerner, and American Public Media’s On Being blog, among other publications. He edits the online literary magazine Flycatcher: A Journal of Native Imagination and is at work on a collection of essays titled Native Moments: An Ecology of Fatherhood. Aside from writing, Chris enjoys spending time with his family, especially outdoors, and he coaches his little brother’s basketball team, the Owls, every season. (Cannon is not only the team’s biggest fan, but also their official mascot, “Lil Hoot.”) Chris and Deana are expecting a daughter, Opal Mary, in September. In fact, she should be here as this issue goes to print!

D.S. Martin is a poet and teacher. He and his wife have two virtually grown sons, and live just north of Toronto. He’s the award-winning author of two poetry collections—Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). Visit his website: www.dsmartin.ca and his weekly blog about Christian poetry—www.kingdompoets.blogspot.com.

Tyler McCabe is the program coordinator of Seattle Pacific University’s MFA in Creative Writing program and managing editor of Image Journal’s bi-weekly newsletter ImageUpdate. His writing has appeared in SPU’sLingua art journal and Etc. magazine. Originally from Vancouver, Washington, he has recently settled in Seattle’s lovely Queen Anne neighborhood, where he plans on crafting his first book-length work of nonfiction.

Sarah McFalls is a native Tennesseean and lives in Knoxville. When she is not painting, she works as the collections manager for The Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture at the University of Tennessee. Her work has been featured in juried shows in Tennessee, Illinois, and Georgia. She writes: “I began to paint the landscape of ‘Down the Road’ from some photographs I had lying around and quickly discovered that I didn’t need the picture to paint the place. I knew what it looked like. I knew what it felt like, and I knew how it made me feel. I just had to paint until the image was done. The importance I gave to the specificity of place vanished, and the landscape soon became a skeleton to support an unconventional handling of media.”

Maureen Doyle McQuerry is a novelist, poet, and teacher. She has three young adult books coming out in the next two years—The Peculiars, a steam-punk adventure, Beyond the Door, and Time Out of Time(Abrams/Amulet). Her poetry is in many literary journals and in the award-winning chapbook Relentless Light. She teaches writing at Columbia Basin College and is a teaching artist with the Washington State Arts Commission. She is also a founding member of Washington State’s newest website devoted to young adult literature, YA-WA (www.ya-wa.com). You can find out more at www.maureenmcquerry.com.

David Oestreich lives in Northwest Ohio with his wife and three children. In addition to writing, he enjoys fly-tying and photography. He is also an amateur herpetologist and probably drives all the real herpetologists crazy. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Minnetonka Review, Hobble Creek Review, Eclectica, and Tar River Poetry.

Beth Paulson’s poems have appeared widely in small magazines and anthologies. She has received three Pushcart Prize nominations, including  one in 2010. Her poetry collection, Wild Raspberries, was published by Plain View Press in 2009. Beth lives on Colorado’s Western Slope where she teaches writing and creativity workshops. She climbs in the mountains there as well as in Italy and Switzerland. You can read more of Beth’s poetry at her website, www.wordcatcher.org

Nancy Priff’s fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle, The Literary Review, The Dan River Anthology, The Bucks County Writer, and other publications. She has an MFA in fiction writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University and received a 2003 Fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Also, she has written or edited more than 100 books, videos, DVDs, and online courses on nursing and medical topics. Nancy lives in Ambler, Pennsylvania, with her husband John in a mill worker’s house, circa 1830, which they have renovated over the years.

Tania Runyan’s poems have appeared in dozens of publications, including Poetry, The Christian Century, and the anthology A Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare. Tania has been awarded an NEA grant for 2011 and the 2007 Book of the Year Citation by the Conference on Christianity and Literature for her chapbook, Delicious Air. Her first full-length collection, Simple Weight, came out from FutureCycle Press in 2010. WordFarm will release her second collection, A Thousand Vessels, in 2011. Tania spends her days writing, tutoring high school students, playing Celtic fiddle and mandolin, gardening, and managing three boisterous children.

Adrianne Smith, originally from Las Cruces, New Mexico, moved to Jackson, Mississippi, to study art and creative writing at Belhaven University. She graduated this spring, and now manages a Chinese restaurant to pay the bills. She was awarded honorable mention in the 2009 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and second place for poetry in the 2010 Southern Literary Festival.

Joel Sheesley is a painter who lives in the suburbs of Chicago. He graduated with a BFA in painting and drawing from Syracuse University School of Art and from the University of Denver School of Art, with an MFA in painting and printmaking. He teaches art at Wheaton College. His work has been exhibited regularly in Chicago, including at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2010, and in other cities across the country. Mr. Sheesley received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in 2002. In 2008 Mr. Sheesley’s painting was the subject of a major retrospective exhibition at the Brauer Museum of Art at Valparaiso University.

Deborah Sheldon has painted all her life and majored in fine arts in college, but she just started exhibiting in the past seven years. Recently, her work was featured in two solo shows in Spokane, Washington. Deborah also won first place in a 2010 juried show for the Chase Gallery in Spokane. Deborah writes: “As far as memory goes, it has always been art for me. But my real pivotal moment as an artist was August 26th, 2009 at 11:00. My dad died. The mix of grief, loss, and unanswered questions filled me. I purposed to work through that in my artwork. It was painful and wonderful. Another mystery to me is how the paintings seem to draw viewers in who are in the grip of grief. I have had many opportunities to cry, share, and finally accept with people-—the images being the catalyst. We are bonded by our shared experience. It has been an unexpected gift and a season of Hope.”

Michelle Tooker grew up in an area known as Poets Corner in Middletown, New York. Now, she shares a house in suburban Philadelphia with her husband and rambunctious cat. By day she works in marketing and by night she writes poetry. She’s been to thirty-four countries and plans to visit at least one hundred. It’s difficult to pick a favorite place, but she has a special affinity for Burma. She actively raises awareness about the human rights atrocities occurring within the country, and, in August, she hosted “Artists Against Censorship,” a literary fundraising event that benefited the U.S. Campaign for Burma. Michelle’s work has appeared in the Asia Literary Review, the Schuylkill Valley Journal, Ampersand, Foundling Review, Poetry Quarterly and other journals. You can follow her at michelletooker.wordpress.com.

A West Virginia native, Jessie van Eerden holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. Her work has appeared in Best American Spiritual Writing, The Oxford American, River Teeth, and other publications. Van Eerden was selected as the 2007-2008 Milton Fellow with Image and Seattle Pacific University for work on her forthcoming first novel, Glorybound (WordFarm, 2012). She lives with her husband Mike in Ashland, Oregon, where she teaches at The Oregon Extension of Eastern University and the low-residency MFA program of West Virginia Wesleyan College.

Mary Kathryn Wiley graduated with a degree in English from Mercer University, where she won the Sophie Oxley Clark Williams Outstanding Essay Award for a paper on Proust’s In Search of Lost Time—“Suffering and Solitude as the Companions of Art.” After a few brief but formative years in Kinshasa, Zaïre, Mary Kathryn grew up in rural Georgia as the fourth of six children. She currently lives in Macon, Georgia, with her cat Owen. She attends an Episcopal church and works for a local nonprofit serving inner-city youth. She enjoys the films of Federico Fellini, the literary works of modern writers such as Ernest Hemingway, J. D. Salinger, and Virginia Woolf, and the TV shows of Joss Whedon. Her poetry and short stories have previously been published in The Dulcimer.

LAST NOTE

Last Note

Ruminate Contributors on Grief…

These days, grief feels like a daily exercise. Good healthy grieving. Not that any major loss is marking my life right now; it just seems to me that simple changes deserve their grief time. A kind of witnessing. The summer ending, an office cleaned out for the next person, a book with no more pages left in it to read. Writing is, in part, grieving—didn’t Joan Didion speak about writers being born with a presentiment of loss (in “On Keeping a Notebook”)? And so we write it down, not to grasp it out of fear, but to know it fully in the present before we let it go. I often wonder if the bigger losses will feel more manageable if I give the small losses their due—no, not more manageable, but maybe more shot through with the kind of light you notice when you’re more awake. I hope that is the case.
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 Jessie van Eerden Nonfiction Contributor

A writer friend of mine, whose life was suddenly revised by cancer, prompted me to think of this passage: As you can see, I am occupied with Death, so there’s no time left to answer you with a novel. When I first arrived in the world I thought there would be
more time; I was mistaken; so are we all.
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 David Feela Poetry Contributor

Nothing can measure those long empty stretches, the self-elected isolation, the spasms of rage or sadness that leave me changed. My father’s death caught me on the cusp of adolescence. After the car accident, he lingered for days, finally leaving behind the sterile smell of hospital corridors. Depression, anxiety, nightmares. These are the tokens of grief and, in my case, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The past haunts, while the future remains unclear. It is only in the present that I find hints of life’s meaning, as well as its fragility.
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 Mary Kathryn Wiley Poetry Contributor

In Paris, the dead alone dwell in the 20th Arrondissement divided between the Pere-Lachaise and Belleville cemeteries. The stone paths, mottled by the dim light filtering between the intertwined branches of ash and oak, climb Mont Louis. One afternoon, while climbing the steps to an upper terrace, something crunched beneath my feet—the path was paved in snails. They crawled in lines, one behind the other, and glided on their muscular feet, weighed down by the dark curl of their shells. I had interrupted several processions, but the snails kept on, inching around the shards of shell and flesh. I stepped off the path and watched. Soon, however, they were no longer avoiding the crushed snails; they were devouring them. Antennae squirmed over the carcasses, until all that was left were the shells and a glistening trail of mucus—a gleaming corridor between ravaged graves.
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 Adrianne Smith Poetry Contributor

Sorrow is a cat  crouching in the undergrowth
often undetected   Her habits have worn a path
uniquely into each life . . .
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 D.S. Martin Book Review Contributor

Many of our griefs are long and arduous, a continuous slog. They are particular to us and yet they are universal. And that is the truth about the world. Grief that feels too big to be born. It seems to me as a writer that the easiest way to capture grief is by writing small, focusing on the particular. We must also tell the other truth about the world, that the end of our grief has already been written. Annie Dillard writes, “You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.” And that is the flip side of our story: wonder and astonishment as individual and universal as grief. And somehow we must learn to live in between them both. There is a time to give voice to each.
&#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 &#160 Maureen Doyle McQuerry Poetry Contributor

When I had to drive the length of the country—nearly 3000 miles westward, away from family and friends—I learned endurance. Physical endurance, sure, but a strange mental endurance that I’ve never known: one part focus, one part meditation on what was going away. And in that second part I learned a lesson in loss; or, if not loss, then disappearance, which is a friendly sister of loss. On the night we arrived, finally stopping and laying down and knowing that it was all done, I thought: It is already tomorrow on the east coast, just after midnight, and I know the people we left are doing whatever it is they’re doing. I know the people we love who are so far away will wake up tomorrow, as will we, in a new place, missing someone and going on in spite of it.
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When I first experienced crippling grief—over a sudden death—I finally understood that biblical gesture of tearing one’s hair and garments in sorrow. I wanted out of my clothes, my hair, my skin; any membrane that would dare touch a world where such pain and loss were possible, that would dare let in so much suffering.
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I was talking to a friend recently about the grief involved with saying goodbye. I told her that I find it hard during these periods of sadness not to go a little crazy, like, eat pizza every day or smoke a million cigarettes, cut my hair with my eyes closed or laugh for too long, to that point where people look at you and say, “I think he’s cracked.” But then, miraculously, I do none of these things. I clip my fingernails. I go to church and talk to an elderly woman named Ruth about her silver bracelet. I sit on the arm of my sofa and bite into a jazz apple. I said to my grieving friend, if you find a jazz apple in your grocery store, I recommend you try it. It is from Australia, according to the sticker. Details like these provide me rungs to keep climbing.
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Grief and love are so closely related that at times I find it hard to differentiate between them. Like love, grief is about the other— the need for that which is not contained within our selves. Like love, grief is impossible to articulate perfectly, which is why artists are always trying to do it, and always will. Lear’s “Howl, howl, howl, howl,” may be the closest anyone ever comes: grief originates from somewhere primal in us, somewhere animal. Like love, it whittles us to our barest state, then leaves us with only a question: What comes next? And that may be the most interesting part. The refrigerator and a one inch nugget of good cheese—becomes a feast.
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Every night I climb into bed and curl up in the glow of my iPad. Using the right combination of screen taps, I can transport myself to the Dadaab refuge camp, where despairing mothers queue up to receive temporary rations. Many have been raped on the way or forced to leave dying children on the side of the road in order to save the others. The pictures are hard to see, but I manage. I say a prayer, nibble on chocolate, and fluff my pillow for sleep. Oh God, decrease their suffering. Oh God, increase my grief.
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“As long as we are on earth,” wrote Thomas Merton, “the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.” I feel this love-rooted suffering at times, often while watching my toddler son doing the kinds of things toddlers do—holding his blanket to his face and sucking his finger when he is tired, for instance, or getting excited over picking up little rocks in our yard. In such moments I know that he is, in the core of his being, no different from children who suffer from the violence of abuse, of war, of hunger. And so, when my son is tired, I pick him up, kiss him, and lay him in his bed; with him, I admire and study the rocks he gathers. In his sleep and in his rock bucket there is, somehow, grace enough to reset this broken Body in which there is no separation, if we could but ever see it.
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