The Beautiful Terrible
notes/poems of grief
I'm incredibly interested in [perhaps even obsessed with] the ideas of how we can praise, honor, and recognize grief. How do we have that capacity to hold all these disparate things at once? I want to be able to touch the beautiful thing while holding a terrible truth. So becoming an essayist and a poet in my free time was philosophically a paradigm shift because it showed me what I needed to evolve into in order to survive. And recognizing that capacity is essential to living in a way that feels authentic with who I am. It's not surrendering to the sadness, even though sometimes I want to. I've experienced a lot of powerlessness in my life, and I am always powerless in the face of shame and horror. But surrendering to those things would consume me, and I think poetry empowers us with enough strength and defiance to stand up to those proverbial columns of tanks rolling down the Tiananmen Square in our lives.
I didn't want to give up on bearing witness because it was too hard. It felt vital to bear witness. I had to name it. I had to pay attention to it, but I also got caught up in spending so much attention that my grief became a permanent mailing address for years. Consequently, I hope there's a bit of forgiveness in that. There's a powerful, yet false empathetic pull, where some part of us wants to believe we can redeem that wallowed time by taking on someone else's suffering for or with them.
But, of course, anyone who's dealt with sustained grief or lived through a period of prolonged suffering knows that's not what that suffering person wants you to do. It doesn't honor their loss or experience. It doesn't do anyone justice. So the actual processes of praising, noticing, attending to the good things and the functions of loving, and holding on to the world's music are as essential as witnessing and naming and holding the tremendous sorrow that comes with being alive. Grief, trauma, and loss will always crack our hearts - open or closed. And open, the good news about open is you turn around, and there are, of course, billions of other people who live on this earth who have lost a person they love so much. And there they all are. And it's so great to be in their company.
I came to see that until I was willing to shed that rusted armor of grief, shame, and horror that I actually couldn't experience the world. And for me, radical acceptance and surrender [to unknown and untold possibilities] can profoundly change our conceptions of what healing looks like, and that's the moment that we can move from grief into the transformative power of mourning in the context of having a future.
Love persists and redeems through all of that. And it's a remarkable, almost miraculous thing how it persists.
Every story about illumination begins in the dark
I’m hitting suicides down my driveway at 10 pm, and I cannot count how many times I have said that I love running in the rain when I have only ever wanted to be a person who loves running in the rain.
There’s a coyote at the edge of my garden, I press my flashlight into my hand and wait to see if he howls. I’ll have 90 seconds to make it inside.
My palms are glowing - my trachea is the size of May. Lungs wider than March.
180lbs of aether lit like the heart of the night.
If I am the alchemist
of my grief
I will cast a light
I cannot hide
in its place.
I’m fine with writing bad poetry in the notes app at 2 am if it helps you survive
it is the start of another summer
where I haven’t made my bed
only allowing my body to hang halfway out in a tangle like
kudzu climbing up the side of a crumbling wall
reaching for something impossible.
love, I promise there haven’t always been
dishes spilling out of the sink
& the laundry piled in the corner is clean
I’ll get to it tomorrow
There are nights when I wish we were still young, but then
I know we still are or at least there is no other way to explain
How we made every elevator our own
How my eyeshadow blended into your collarbone
The way we bury ourselves
into anything that moves
most nights I scream
into the abyss like a siren
Weep on the bathroom floor,
and I never mention it in the morning
God, I pray
I am starting to grow wings
in the absence of everything.
There are ten ways to say sunset.
There are 100 ways to say “I love you” without the language of loss.
How are you? What parts of you grow in the dark?
Do you still run with the wolves?
I am still made of starlight
trial by fire
I’ve permanently set my phone to “do not disturb”
by which I mean
I will not tell another person I am sorry for their grief
when I cannot hold [it with] them.
Look - one day I will bring you all the strength that we left in the mountains
Until then, we can only offer up
some holy unwanted mess of ourselves
and hope it is still a gift.
I too have clung tightly to the soleness of a burden;
in an effort to make it pure.
burning my hands has always kept me from praying.
What my mother says about God
I believe about loneliness
That something that goes on forever can still be good
When you flipped the tables in the temple
I should have burned the veil that was torn
Every saint has ended up bloody
trying to scrub the grace from my wrists
the hallowed from your mouth
I dream of a tender worth being holy for
My orthopedist tells me to stop running during thunderstorms
Me, the patron saint of lightning bolts
Electrocuted twice. The heart still murmurs.
Good god, I’ve been grounding out.
Have I ever been struck; Truly?
Everything runs through me at high voltage.
The memory of you -
so strong that I have to close my eyes and
swallow just to get it down
like 200 fireflies in my stomach.
There is music playing loudly in the back of my mind
Everything in me is chanting your name
as I crush a water bottle left out in the sun - all at once.
It’s rushing down my throat hot and quick,
I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand,
Skin glistening like something celestial has been kissing me
like I’ve been loved by grace for the last 47 minutes.
I push myself so hard that I lose my dinner in a stranger’s backyard
When you get here; kiss me like you’ve been starving
My legs are quaking,
My shoulder blades gleaming alabaster
I blaze with so much silver
Even the stars bend around my hips.
In a dream, I wake up on the shore in West Vancouver
I meet your parents at Lighthouse Park, even though they’re divorced and I only met your dad twice. There is nothing but September fog to cover our grief, and your niece laughs just like you, at the seaweed stuck to the small of my back. I want to eat that laugh, I want to rub it on my chest like lavender. I want to make a sound tattoo of the last voicemail you left me; when you said you loved me beyond the end of everything. I want God to reach down, snap this building from the ground and shake it like a cocktail mixer. As if that re-collision of DNA would give any of us our old lives back.
when the loss makes you /
than whatever you were before
When the only heritage that’s left
is tending a garden with your remains
I walk down my hallway backwards
turn off all the lights in my bathroom
scream your name three times in the mirror
/ see you from here
An Ode to Rilke’s “Ahead of All Parting”
I don’t know when it begins,
the willingness to be
in this moment
to hold on to you by saying I don’t
mind too much
when the trees are stripped of their color,
I choose this icy rain at my feet.
I choose this friend to love,
a trembling hand to clasp in my own,
and the sweat that trickles down your back
on an evening in July
Abandon everything else. Or cancel the cost.
I want to touch something
it annihilates what’s