Because some personal losses happened this week that had nothing to do with Covid-19 or the protests, I thought a lot about those who are grieving in the midst of these events that affect us all. One still receives sympathy emails and notes along with baked goods, a casserole or two. But friends to sit with and be comforted by?
How does one personally grieve when one is already overwhelmed? Can you say to yourself, “I’ll put personal grieving off until family and friends can gather? No. Grief is an ambush. It attacks when it attacks, certainly immediately in the form of shock, then as the days crawl by, it sneak-attacks, and you find yourself crying in the produce section and wondering why.
And yet if you turn away from the hideous blaspheming of 45, the beautiful solidarity of the protests, the welfare of others regarding Covid, and the need to actually “serve and protect,” you feel you’ve put aside what could be — finally — a shift from consuming what isn’t needed to caring for what is.
I need to change the tone.
Let’s imagine 45’s book report on The Bible. First sentence, “It’s incredible.”
This chair is empty. This evening
is another evening coming down around
us like the last moment before
the winds are gone and the wild
songs of the insects disappear into
the endless dream of the mind’s nest.
Whoever is not sitting in that chair
is who is resting in your veins, ready
to drift out of you, taking the voices
that interrupt the child’s play,
that hover over the marriage bed, mocking
the rhythm of being alone, ripping
the last chance from the last chance.
This empty chair sits, and sits facing
the window that frames the light
that you imagine is a gift
knowing its source is fire, its long journey
a flood, its movement through
the spider’s web a grace no less invincible
than sight. These are the days.
These are the nights. And at rest,
the empty chair.
First published in Free Lunch. Subsequently published in Between(Dawn Vally Press).
On June 21 at 2pm I will give an online reading with charles Baxter and Laurel Blossom as part of M.L. Liebler engaging reading series on ZOOM. Write to him for details.
Naomi Shihab Nye has a new collection: CAST AWAY (Greenwillow). She has developed a fascinatingly direct voice. Imagine, 147 pages of poems about trash! Those concerned about our environment–everyone!– will find it a companion.
Linda Hillringhouse has a personally powerful book of poems out about the things that shape her life. The Things I Didn’t Know to Wish For, from NYQ Books.
Dan Gerber’s new, beautifully reflective long poem, Landscape at Eighty, has been gorgeously printed in letterpress by Hound Dog Press.
Gayle Boss has recorded her luminous book of environmental essays, Wild Hope, Paraclete Press, available now through Audible.
Our own Pastor Sal — Salvatore Sapienza — has a new book out, encouraging us to put away our childish thinking. It’s called… wait for it… Childish Thinking: How the Church Keeps Us Stuck in Sunday School.
Where are the books? Visit Reader’s World or Hope-Geneva Bookstore in Holland, The Bookman in Grand Haven, the Michigan News Agency in Kalamazoo, and The Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague to find Jack’s books in West Michigan.
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Click here for Jack’s entire collection, In Time — poems for the current administration.