This poem has been a part of my grieving process after my father’s death this past February.
My Father’s Passing
Can’t come up from under grief’s blue-green
the tears unshed, wet-eyed from those that have been
Sky too bright, sharp light, my heart over-borne
The sea of me filled yet sorrow’s torrents coming
I sat there alone with my father busy dying
My hand upon his thin grey hair, sweat clinging
to my fingers upon it and I couldn’t stop touching
the one so near yet going so far away past reaching
His face not his face, where is the man I knew in this
Emptied suffering stranger, eyes as blue as harsh sky
Opening to see me / not see me, opaque with mystery
Touching his lips with wet sponge as long ago was done
Suffering, he me we, in our own twinned mystery
What history halves the solitude of dying
Between the suffering going and the one who waits
for the suffering of the other, and his own as well to pass?
I sang hymns, random, softly to not ungentle his struggle
to breath; none were with us in those small dark hours
as I emptied the red-covered Methodist pages, almost hoarse,
and my unyoung voice was that of an orphan-in-waiting
Praying to God yet unable to feel anything but the sorrow,
the loss of him, oh, the loss loss loss, sorrow, sorrow,
in waves upon this sudden barren shoreline of myself,
Understanding all at once — with terrible clarity — why Jesus wept.
I think this is an absolutely awesome poem. It harrowingly captures the feelings of grief, the bewilderment of loss, the shared mystery and trauma of death…just SO many things. I came upon it in some weird segue from one of my other favorites, Tennessee Williams’ excellent, excellent poem of despair, How Calmly Does The Olive Branch, [Nonno’s (Grandfather’s) Poem, from Night of the Iguana].
Thank you for sharing this. I wish your father could have read it.
Thank you. To even hear Tennessee Williams’ work mentioned within a mile of mine is mighty gratifyin’.