Poetry and Weeds

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Excerpted from my February 2024 newsletter. 


I wrote this grief poem a little over a year ago. While writing it, I thought about how pervasive grief is after the death of someone very close to us. I tried to capture that in highlighting, through the lines, the kinds of ordinary objects that can surface memories of people we lost. (Thanks to Poetry Breakfast for publishing this poem last week!)


After Days of Deep Grief

The air feels like ocean.
But no amount of swimming lessons
readied you for this fall beyond sight.

You try to leave the house
without ripping open.
Walk the dog.
Send mail.

But everything is a trip wire
reminder of what has been lost.

The broccoli––
what you coaxed him towards as a child.
An orange–– he ate so many.
Model airplanes and finger paints.

His favorite kind of bread
lines up in neat rows
at the grocery store.

One whole row
has been removed.

At the back of the shelf,
bread bags fall into one another,
barely propped up,
shaped around emptiness.

Your hand will never stop reaching
toward what he loved.
The empty row will never be refilled.
A space you’ll keep stumbling over
with heart and eyes.

Hands that want
to busy themselves,
send a letter,
twist over
and over
on the heavy shore.


This poem actually began as two separate poems on grief. I used a technique called a Cut and Shuffle poem, from one of my graduate school mentors, Ruston Larson. In the exercise, the writer takes lines from two poems and weaves them together:

Line 1 from Poem 1
Line 1 from Poem 2
Line 2 from Poem 1
Line 2 from Poem 2
and so on

I found that this technique was very poignant for writing about grief and the way grief swings us back and forth so swiftly between thoughts and feelings. How disorganizing and jolting grief is. I ended up loving some of the juxtapositions of lines that appeared, such as you try to leave the house/ without ripping open.” “ Ripping open” had originally referred to something else entirely (a package or bag, maybe), and using it to describe the speaker of the poem captured grief in a way I wouldn’t have thought to otherwise. If you are experiencing deep grief and loss, I hope this poem offers you a moment of feeling a little less alone.


Spotted around the yard: Weeds

In December I wrote about my excitement in seeing the new growth emerging from the ground around my house, and my joy at seeing the first green shoots of grass coming up from the dirt.

The other day, I walked out of my house with my morning cup of coffee, looked around at the ground and thought “ wow, I’d better pull those weeds soon.” Now, the grasses have gotten tall enough that I’ve started to see them as weeds. Things I need to pull before the dry season comes. Future dry flammable objects that I need to prevent from spreading their seed.

First they were wonder. Now, they’re weeds.

I’ve trying to catch my brain in the act when an observation changes to a task, when I shift from wonder to fear or worry. The plants are still just plants. I’ve put meaning onto them. And if I slow down and pay attention, I can find wonder again. So each morning I’ve been taking the time to notice the way the light shines through the flower buds, watch the way the rain beads at their roots. Appreciating their existence separate from any need to manage them.

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