I ... entered the poem of life, whose purpose is ... simply to witness the beauties of the world,
to discover the many forms that love can take. (Barabara Blackman in 'Glass After Glass')


These poems are works in progress, and may be subject to revision without notice. Completed versions appear in my books. Nevertheless copyright applies to all texts found here.

4 August 2014

The Dead of Winter

My house is my cave today. 
It's drizzly out and my blinds are drawn.
But weather is not my reason, 
it's my opportunity.

I fold this cave around me 
like a cosy dressing-gown.
I hope there will not be visitors. 
I disconnect my phone.

This is my bad time of year 
(though none, now, are good).
This is the death time, doubled — 
the recent and the old.

Which should I count worst? 
The man I was with for 20 years,
truest of all companions, 
slowly ageing, ailing?

Slowly losing his mind —
though never his love ... our love: 
our resolute, practical love — 
as I lost power to help.

Or the violent, sudden end
decades past, of one
linked to me, mind to mind,
a week short of his 25th birthday?

******

Such outwardly peaceful events. 
Holding a hand as known as my own,
murmuring to him of love and memory, 
all those hours with his eyes closed.

All those hours until his breath stopped, 
just as his eyes flew open
to bless me with his last look. 
And I, that one instant, not looking.

Or to sit down with a coffee 
on a lazy Saturday afternoon
and open the day's paper 
to the headline I'll never forget.

No-one knew I was someone
who would need to be told,
who would most need to be told —
no-one who had the telling.

(And I’d failed to understand
my inexplicable tears the night before,
the lines of poetry filling my thoughts
in words of love and goodbye.)

******

“There are some," my psychiatrist said, 
“Who break down very quietly.” 
Mostly that's what I did 
in all the several breakdowns of my life.

And in these hurts too. Mostly. 
"You mustn't grieve," I was told.
"It holds the dead back." Too bad
I said in my head. You owe me that.

I went long walks alone 
in Melbourne's hottest summer,
haranguing the pitiless, empty sky; 
returning calmly to cook dinner.

That's when I started 
always having too much to do,
keeping busy against 
bottomless rage and despair.

******

"Live my life for me," he seemed to say 
through the pages of a book.
For a while I tried but then I knew, 
that was not his message.

Live your own life, he'd have said.
Write your own poems. I'm outa here. 
And he'd have laughed. 
I went on. Life is long.

As my life with my last love was long, 
sweetly long, and now is done.
You won't see me scream and sob. 
I withdraw. I do it all alone.


Submitted for Poets United's Poetry Pantry #212

22 comments:

  1. I know you better through these poignant, beautifully expressive verses Rosemary. I can feel and see your inner environment far better now. These verses speak of a void that no other can fill (and you know that I know this personally). But life has sweetness even so, just as I find in the warmth of your friendship. Just as you find in the friendship of those who are closest to you. And remember there is no real separation from those whom we love still, even though aren't 'visible.' Love is the very nature of the cosmos, it can never die.

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    1. Thank you for these wise, kind words, dear friend.

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  2. i love how the waves of grief slowly recedes, the thunderstorm dies down and the inner strength begins to shine and take hold...this is inspiring and beautiful...

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  3. You have written the phases of grief very well. I understand what you mean about silent breakdowns & also about the keeping busy stage. So much goes on that other people do not see. I like the last stanza and the idea of living your own life. That is what I am sure he would have wanted. One day at a time.

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  4. I know you feel grateful for having many loving years with him. And yes, you have the right for grieving, tears , special memory as long as you need it. But then, when you become busy, live your own life- means no withdraw more....and when you say:"This is my bad time of year" - you know, Universe heard 'your desire - my command' - so everything up to you. Start to send positive desires to become true
    rejuvenation for you. He would love to see you smile and optimistic. ~ Love your poem. xx

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    1. I appreciate your kind words. Be reassured! What I say comes from having noticed, over the many years since the first death recounted above, various mental and physical symptoms, looking for the cause, and then realising: Oh yes, it's the anniversary reaction again. And it happens that the much more recent anniversary of my late husband's decline and death is at the same time of year. Grief is permanent; however can be transmuted - and of course is complex, as it applies only where there has first been joy. In truthfulness to myself, I like to recognise the signs and take a little time to honour them and their origin before going on again. Also it's useful to be aware of one's personal coping mechanisms, so as to monitor how far they may slip into neurosis. And then, for me poetry is a great way to express things and get them out rather than festering inwardly, unreleased.

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  5. might that someone should say the same for me

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  6. Thank you for sharing your grieving process. I think probably many can definitely identify. A deep and beautiful write Rosemary.

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  7. The lightness of your words and music of your words hide the heaviness of grief and how to handle it.. what touched me most was missing the last look before he died.. saying with his look those unheard words... devastatingly sad Rosemary..

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  8. Rosemary, you have written a wonderfully true and honest poem of the grief of living, which speaks straight to my heart for I, too, break down alone and do it quietly...........at this stage of life there is so much to grieve and it is terrible for anyone to say we mustnt grieve for, of course, we must, with so many profound losses. Thank you for this sharing. It makes me feel less alone.

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  9. its hard...the memories that come these times of year...and the heaviness with them...a very honest write capturing what you are facing...you have me teary...smiles.

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  10. Hmmm... I enjoyed it enough to read it twice
    ZQ

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  11. An emotionally-rich piece. I cannot comment on what it means to deal with a loss of someone so close to you. But your grief and your efforts to come to terms with it are beautifully portrayed in your words and touch the heart of the reader.

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  12. this is so emotional and heart touching.. just lovely, and i like the optimism an the courage not many would find in such a situation.

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  13. Thank you all for the thoughtful and understanding comments.

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  14. You speak with wisdom, experience and authority, Rosemary; and you convey the emotional and intellectual turmoil of grief.

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  15. oh heck... that made my heart ache... it's tough to loose someone you loved so much... i love how you found a way to live on though... how he wants you to live on and breathe and write and find joy in the small things along the way

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  16. I'm liking this, Rosemary. I remember when. You have plotted a good course and followed it well.

    Reminds me of the fellow I played golf with today. He had no course. His complaint, "I'm lonesome." I ran by some questions, does he cook; have hobbies; go out with other people; and more? I shared his life only mine was 44 years ago, when the first Mrs. Jim decided for another. His is more like four years ago.
    ..

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  17. Your words are so powerful and full of your heart. Grieving is a part of life, just like truly living is. We must never forget to do both! Blessings to you, Rosemary.

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  18. I appreciate the personal share Rosemary ~ I am still with my hubby so I don't know what grief really feels ~ Wishing you a lovely week ~

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  19. Very grateful to you all for taking time to share your kind thoughts.

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