Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mourning Poems

Poetry and grief have a long tradition. From the pre-Romantic "Graveyard Poets" to Yeats, Frost, and many others, poetry seems to articulate all facets of feelings that we often cannot find words to express. Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's recent collection "Slamming Open the Door" is a raw and unflinchingly honest exploration of her grief after her daughter Leidy was murdered. Here's the poem that moved me the most:

What People Give You

Long-faced irises. Mums.
Pink roses and white roses
and giant sunflowers,
and hundreds of daisies.

Fruit baskets with muscular pears,
and water crackers and tiny jams
and the steady march of casseroles.
And money,
people give money these days.

Cards, of course:
the Madonna, wise
and sad just for you,
Chinese cherry blossoms,
sunsets and moonscapes,
and dragonflies for transcendence.

People stand by your sink
and offer up their pain:
Did you know I lost a baby once,
or My eldest son was killed,
or My mother died two months ago.

People are good.
They file into your cartoon house
until it bows at the seams;
they give you every
except your daughter back.

Here's the NPR interview with Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno.

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