The Thing Is

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you down like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

Ellen Bass

I go further and further into it, broken and silent, ‘struggling to keep hold’ of memories, words, phrases from the funeral. Did we do a good job, did I do a good job? Was she pleased with what I said?

The new term hurtles on. Already we have finished week 3, week 4 comes crashing towards us like a train. Where is the breathing space? Where can I find a moment to sit and just be?

My desk looks like a bomb site. There are at least four important letters I need to reply to. I sit down to make a list of what needs remembering for the but my mind just blinks at the page.

No one warned me that grief would be like this, its lonely lack of focus. Its unmemory. I think ‘How can a body withstand this?’ I cup her face between my hands. Her laughter. Her smile. I will love again.


  1. Thank you for this poem. Is it possible that the unfocused, often dream-like state grief causes in us is actually intended as a mercy? A protection from hurtling into big decisions or new projects before we are back in our right minds? If we allowed ourselves to dwell fully in the grief state for a while, to pay it attention rather than seeking for distraction, would we recover more completely and possibly even more quickly? These questions are difficult to answer because our society does not permit us the space/time to explore them experientially for as long as it takes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks again for another wonderful poem, Anthony.

    I have found that the isolation and desperate loneliness of grief persists for a long time after the formalities . It is like standing in a river in torrent and I could not find my feet and was threatened with being swamped and bowled over for quite a while. Bystanders are on the bank, not exactly where I was.
    The storm does abate and the waters go down. One far off day, my foothold steadied and I could struggle to the riverbank and even sit there a while and look at the river. But you never, ever forget.
    Take gentle care of yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Dear Anthony, thank you for posting this poem, and the other work by Ellen Bass as well, and your comments. I have been meaning to leave a reply here for quite awhile – each time I read one of your posts – honest, real, and inspiring. The words you have written here about your mother, and about grief and life – these words do indeed honour her, I am certain. I did not know her, but as a mother myself, I can say that these are words of honour and beauty, and of a love that transcends time. Thank you for your words and for continuing to share your voice and talent with us.

    Liked by 3 people

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