Immersion

Here is a poem I’ve come to love, followed by my reflections. It’s by Barbara Crooker from her collection “Gold.”

Grief
is a river you wade in until you get to the other side.
But I am here, stuck in the middle, water parting
around my ankles, moving downstream
over the flat rocks. I’m not able to lift a foot,
move on. Instead, I’m going to stay here
in the shallows with my sorrow, nurture it
like a cranky baby, rock it in my arms.
I don’t want it to grow up, go to school, get married.
It’s mine. Yes, the October sunlight wraps me
in its yellow shawl, and the air is sweet
as a golden Tokay. On the other side,
there are apples, grapes, walnuts,
and the rocks are warm from the sun.
But I’m going to stand here,
growing colder, until every inch
of my skin is numb. I can’t cross over.
Then you really will be gone.

***************************************
She doesn’t say she won’t cross over, but that she can’t. In this, the poet recognizes the seismic impact of a significant death. For me, it also speaks to grief’s import in my personal growth and relationships. Moreover, to force the passage of my grief, to “move on” too quickly, feels unnatural. Particularly the phrase, “nurture it like a cranky baby, rock it in my arms,” suggests an instinctive cleaving to grief, and the acceptance of a mourning time – a time like childhood, to be cherished and gleaned for its truths. Like childhood and water, it is moving, and will inevitably change. The insights and ongoing connection to Kissie that grief has offered me are personal (“It’s mine”), and though they will likely (hopefully) be long-lasting, they are not static.

Significantly, this poem counsels me to respect where I am in grief, to resist turning away from my individual mourning as chronos time (like “water parting around my ankles”) marches on, and cultural dictates urge me to put it, and therefore Kissie, behind me. My mourning and my love cannot be separated.

The poet also acknowledges that even in grief life remains beautiful (“Yes, the October sunlight wraps me in its yellow shawl, and the air is sweet as a golden Tokay”), but that to fully sever it, is to orphan ourselves.

4 thoughts on “Immersion

  1. To me it is a beautiful poem with sharp, clear, fierce images of grief. The words convey not only what grief might look like but how it is like being stuck in moving water. I loved that part and also the part about being able to see a different place but not being ready to get out of the water. Flowing water seems to be the perfect analogy to me. I can take a few steps in the flow of life or pause or stop.
    Lately I have been wondering about the grief of losing contact with someone I love. It has been six months since I heard his voice for three minutes. This seems, somehow, unacceptable grief. It is a deep unresolved sadness with tiny pieces of hope that I will hear from him – soon.

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  2. What a beautiful visual she created to represent grief. I also have stood in that cold river for many years. But now I have one foot on the warm bank. I am reminded of the Temperance card in the Tarot deck where the character has one foot on land, and one in the water. Life is a balancing act. I have decided to keep one foot in the river of my grief. My grief informs my life, my path, and my decision making process.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing the wisdom of the Temperance card. Yes, life truly is a balancing act. I love and respect your decision to keep one foot in the river of your grief. I am with you in that decision – it feels physically, emotionally, and psychically balanced, and stabilizing.

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