Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Well, I just want to make a sort of hybrid post here - Collin and I lost a good friend this weekend under pretty uncomfortable circumstances, so first off, RIP Robyn. You will be missed, and I wish we'd had more time.

I tend to read more when I'm dealing with things like this - it's kind of natural reaction, almost a defense mechanism in an odd fashion. Anyway, I revisited some of my favorite poetry in the last couple days, just to make sure my degree still has some utility beyond the moderate fortune and niche renown it has afforded me to this point. I came across one of my favorite explorations of grief, and while the overarching theme (the widow's look back) is not directly applicable, I love the imagery of sorrow as white, and the replacement effects that happen when things that made you happy formerly now force you to "turn away forgetting." Too often, both of these types of interactions are the ones we're uncomfortable with or unprepared for, especially when a death is as sudden, unexplained and unfortunate as Robyn's.

The Widow's Lament in Springtime
by William Carlos Williams

Sorrow is my own yard
where the new grass
flames as it has flamed
often before but not
with the cold fire
that closes round me this year.
Thirtyfive years
I lived with my husband.
The plumtree is white today
with masses of flowers.
Masses of flowers
load the cherry branches
and color some bushes
yellow and some red
but the grief in my heart
is stronger than they
for though they were my joy
formerly, today I notice them
and turn away forgetting.
Today my son told me
that in the meadows,
at the edge of the heavy woods
in the distance, he saw
trees of white flowers.
I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers
and sink into the marsh near them.

To be honest, the raw beauty of the "cold fire" and the enveloping whiteness of death and sorrow form the stark relief that really captures the essence of mourning as I feel/experience it. It's not a dark or dreary place - it's a blank, an unknown, a sort of emotional diaspora whereby we have scattered, fragmented thoughts and feelings that we struggle to combine into a cohesive whole.

It goes without saying, meanwhile, that the widow's final lament (in lines 26-29) give too final a rejoinder - one I cannot relate to, and one which embodies the difficulty of our (and my) struggle for cohesion and unification of distress.

Too often we look for answers where ones either don't exist, or would not be satisfactory or enlightening even should answers make themselves prominent. Sometimes, we need to let the new grass flame in our garden, without interference.

1 comment:

cseguin said...

Very well said, Rob.

RIP Robyn - I wish we'd had more time, but I'm very thankful for the time we had.