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Juhlhaus Mar 15
Let the dead carry the weight of you
when the road is long,
the climb too steep

—worn treads, bare threads—

out of time,
in place.

A bereaved mother's touch to guide you,
an empty hand to hold

when you're on the brink
of a faltering jump to the sidewalk
she is right there with you
to lift you
over the deep mud, the oily puddles.

In that dark mirror
let her show you the shattered faces
of the ones taken

but still here with you,

still here
in a world seen through her eyes
for what it was

and for all it can be.
These words came to me after a visit to the apartment that was the historic home of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley in Chicago.
How do you measure the once-was?  The invisible?  The void?  

                                 The ache in my heart is not physiological,
                                   although it may feel like it sometimes is.
  

I can measure the words I write,
                       the words that get stuck in my throat.  
The boxes of belongings left over.  (You can narrow down a person’s
                                                               physical life by how many trips it
                                                                ­                          takes to Goodwill.)
How many songs can I now not stand?  
How many scents are now trigger trapdoors?  

Shall I count the number of times I’ve thought of you today?  
No ******* thank you.  
                                          Measuring is for the birds.  
                                                        ­                                    The doctors and
                                                                ­                                the scientists.  

I keep reaching inside and pulling out my still beating,
                                          but rotting and decaying heart
                                        only to be told it’s perfectly fine.  
I refuse to be gaslit on my grief anymore.
write your grief prompt 28: how do we see the gesture, the mass, the gravity, of the one you love, now that we cannot look at them directly? how do we know the shape, the weight, the being, of the one you love, by what we see in you?
We all know that life can thrive in the most inhospitable of places.
                                             Plants grow from volcanic soil.
                                             Bioluminescence crawls beneath
                                               immense pressure on the ocean floor.
                                             Microbes most likely thrive below the icy,
                                                        radioact­ive surface of Europa.
We all know that life—love—perseveres.  
                                         ­                                 It’s nothing new.

But we don’t talk about
                                            how ******* hard that actually is.  
That’s what the strengths perspective is for.  
What resilience gives name to.  

But what if I don't want to?  What if,
                                                                ­  for today,
                                                                ­                     I’d rather the **** not?  
Is that okay?                           Is that allowed?  
That today I'm the vinca vine dying on the ledge?  
Withered up and not drinking any more water.  

Today, I am every succulent that I’ve ever accidentally killed.  
Today, I am excess formaldehyde.  I am a brain floating in a bell jar,
                        undulating in an existence that is an ethical quagmire.
Today, I am in limbo.  Purgatory.  Stasis and static.  
Suspended upside down in a frozen wasteland, Dante style.  

Tomorrow, I will thaw.  
                                Rise from the soil fist first.
write your grief prompt #25: Read this poem, and as quickly as possible, write.
"Happiness grows back / Like saplings after a forest fire / Barren grief / No longer your primary / residence / That old hollowness / Carved out / Washed/ With holy tears / An old topography of loss / You will follow / Back to life"
Taylor St Onge Oct 2021
I remember so much that I wish I could forget.  

This is a poem about Psalm 23 choked out through tears.  
This is a poem about astro vans and
                                      tractor lawn mowers and
                                      driveway car washes and
                                      small garden spaces and
                                      digger wasps and
                                      three wolves and a moon.  

This is about the Backstreet Boys and
                              Def Leppard and
                              Kenny Chesney.  
“Dreams” by The Cranberries.

About waterparks and
            swim lessons and
            the smell of chlorine.  
Fresh cut grass.  Bonfire smoke permeating through the house.  

Grey diamond tiles on white linoleum.  
                                                                Hands clenched down on washcloths.

Muddled.  It’s all so muddled.  Stuck beneath
                                                           brain­ matter and cerebrospinal fluid and
                                                              down, down, down beneath the lake.  
How can I dig it out while also digging it down deeper?  
I want to forget it all.  No memory, no pain, no ******* problem.  

Goldfish life: a pipedream.
write your grief prompt #19: "begin your writing with 'I remember.'"
Taylor St Onge Aug 2021
It’s a large cavern.  A gaping hole—
                                                                A black hole.  
Slow and fast.        Pain and numb.        Yin and yang.
The blackened lung.        The bust vessel.        The mutated cells.
                     It’s everything and nothing at once.

                                                    What is the condition of my heart?
I couldn't begin to tell you.
It’s hope and
                    it’s anger and
                                           it’s frustration and
                                                                ­           it’s a corked bottle on high heat.

Lush leaves.  Turquoise lagoon.  Iron sky.  
Everything looks like it's
                                               filmed through a blue filter, Twilight style—
                                                         this is what my heart looks like.  

Grey like brain.  Serosanguineous like cerebrospinal fluid
collecting from a shunt to a bag from a cracked open skull.  
Purple and green and yellow like bruises on
                      hands that don't have enough platelets to heal.  
Teal like an N95 mask.  Lilac like a casket spray.  
Soft pink like the padding of a wood overcoat.  
Grey.                        Grey.                   ­     Grey. 

This is what you will find if you crack my chest,
                                          spread my diaphragm,
                                                   my sternum,
                                               shuffle my lungs.
Sounds like asystole on the monitors, but still
           somehow producing electrical currents.  

The condition of my heart is cavernous.  
A sunset on the east coast; a sunrise on the west.  
                                                         ­                                Bittersweet.
write your grief prompt #16: what is the condition of your heart?
Taylor St Onge Aug 2021
The fog here is thick, until you step into it.  
The storm rages until you get to its eye.  
I wish this same principle could be said of me, too.  
But like a gas giant, you could slip right through me with
                         the smallest amount of pressure.
There is no calming sense of self at the core.
Gravity does not apply to me.

There’s a boat on the lake cutting through the fog.  And then nothing.  
                                                      ­                                    More waves.  
                                                        ­            More birds.  
              The fog covers it all up again.  
The sun slinks and the tide comes in, or is it out?  Does it matter?  
The moon controls it in some way—the push, the pull of the waves.
At least the lake looks blue today,
                           looks green today.
The geese are in the water now.  The families are packing up.  
                             The ice cream shop is closing.

And I do not remember if I was ever here with you.  
                                This, of course, is a collective you.  
Could mean you, my reader,
                                               could mean one specific person,
                                               or two
                                                             ­       or three
                                                                ­                          or four;
could be whoever I'm thinking of when I reread this to myself.  
That’s the funny thing about the litany of loss.  
                                           It all starts to congeal.  

Waves crash against the rock.  Starts to chip away, create something new.
                                                      That’s what memory does.
It’s not permanent.  It’s malleable.  
Flexible.        Bendable.        Moldable.  
It smells like lakewater.  Like
                                                  fish and sand and mud and
                            gulls and rocks and shells and
     algae and fog—thick, thick fog.  
Smell is supposed to be one of the biggest memory triggers, and yet
                                       I cannot place a single memory of you here.
                                                    And that’s mildly crushing.  

So I would take you here:
                                              to where I wish the air was
                                                       saliter and less earthy.  
                                              to where I come sometimes to think.  
                                              where the clouds are so thick and puffy and
                                                            the setting sun makes them look like                                                                cotton candy on the Fourth of July.
                                              where the sun’s reflection on the water
                                                                ­      turns the green lake pink.  
                                              where the geese are back out of the water and
                                                                                                     onto the shore.
I would take you here with me.  
Into a new memory.  
                                      Homemade.        Handmade.        DIY.
write your grief prompt #14: imagine writing a letter to the one you have lost, what would you show them?
lex hughes Aug 2021
Looking at a life through the shattered wine glass
One of my earliest memories of you,
Understanding with no words or thoughts that you were going to die one day
And yet I still wasn't ready.

You drank to still your thoughts
And finally, they are still.
Long, unplanned absence. Still grief will always guide me back.
Taylor St Onge Jun 2021
It's the pilot light in the stove,
                                    the fireplace.  It’s the
night light in the bathroom,
                        the living room.  The
reflection in the mirror,
                  in the glass of my windshield.  The
      hum of electricity,
the sigh of the furnace.  

What do you mean I’m supposed to go looking for something that is constant?

The conjoined twin does not go looking for its sibling.
                 The brain does not search for the heart.  
The shadow always finds the body.  Gravity invariably
                                                    pulls the moon into orbit.  

The smoldering ache of loss
                  —hot like bubbling magma, bright like a solar flare—
                                                   is always there.  
Lurking beneath the skin.  The face behind the mask.  
                 Gnarled roots beneath the forest.

What do you mean I’m supposed to look for something that is a part of me?
Assimilated to my sense of normalcy.  Integrated into my DNA.
I can only do so much introspection before I go insane.
write your grief prompt #12: What would it take to seek out the smoldering ache of loss?
Juhlhaus May 2021
This dry Spring
the parched earth drinks quickly,
every cool droplet precious
as the tears of the bereaved.

The rain furrows the dusty creek banks
like sunken, careworn cheeks.
the timid water hurries
past sandbars and gravel spits,
around balding rocks crowned
with rotting riverweed.
and in the green places that remain
to be sought and found between
the highway noise and the factories,
there the shy ones grieve with us
for all those lost to disease and violence,
miscarriage and mischance.

We round the bend;
the yearlings start and bolt
through the struggling underbrush—
an exercise in their own fragility.
The mother does not run.
she moves warily
a few paces away
and meets our gaze: measured, assessing.
She takes us in, then bows
her graceful neck to the tender shoots
that break the hardened clay,
the gesture her benediction of peace.
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