I promised my students I would write a poem as inspired by The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler as I had asked them to do. They wrote poems about anger, guilt, joy, pleasure, excitement, courage, and others. I told them they could choose which quality I should write about and they all voted. Grief won.
This is timely: I have lost two grandparents this year and more recently my dog Buddy, so it was both easy AND difficult to write about grief in a personified manner. How did they know that I needed to write this? (They didn’t.)
I read it to them today and they snapped—beatnik-style—for me. This is my poem:
by Jodie Morgenson
Grief greets you at the door.
She whispers in your ear as you fall asleep.
She reminds you of people and animals and places
—everything that you miss—
everything that leaves a space in you.
She brings you packages wrapped in brown paper and string,
or a silver jewelry box,
or a blanket, under a mulberry tree.
She shows up unannounced and uninvited,
though sometimes you suspect she might be on her way.
She surprises you at times with a conversation about a memory.
She makes you cry
—not out of meanness, but out of what she forces you to remember—
what she forces you to face.
Pictures. She loves to bring out pictures of the people you love.
Of the limp figure of your cat.
Of the first time you held your child.
Of the last time you saw your grandma.
Of the only time you saw your father cry.
Of the lump of a body wrapped in a blanket under the mulberry tree.
A shot gun.
Why didn’t anyone take his bullets?
Why didn’t I get to say goodbye?
An open grave.
An urn full of ashes.
She is blunt. She is forceful. She is gentle.
She is necessary.
She’ll leave flowers, and notes and baskets of food on your porch.
She leaves, but she never completely goes away.
Author’s Note for “Grief” by Jodie Morgenson
This poem was inspired by The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler. In her poetry collection, she explores emotion through personification. Last year, I had my students write about anger, guilt, joy, pleasure, excitement, courage, and other qualities. When I told them they could choose which quality I should write about and they all voted. Grief won.
This was timely: I have lost two grandparents this year as well as my dog Buddy, and most recently my cousin Mark, so it was both easy AND difficult to write about grief in a personified manner. How did they know that I needed to write this? (They didn’t.)
The purpose of the poem is to personify grief. I was trying to give grief a personality. I had been meeting with grief pretty regularly during the time I wrote this, so I sort of “in the thick” of a relationship with “her” at the time. In a way I think the purpose of this poem was to help me deal with my grief too.