Grief Poem: Walking with Dawn

Here's one of my poems about mother grief. It was written about 8 years after I lost my son, and originally appeared in slightly different form in a literary-medical journal called "Ars Medica."


WALKING WITH DAWN WHEN GRIEF SHOWS UP

by Fran Dorf


Just by chance I am walking with Dawn,

when grief escapes from the Home,

like an old woman with milky eyes.

Oh, look. She’s got her bag of gruesome memories,

she’s clamped her crooked fingers

around my neck,

popped the cork of my unruly mouth:

MY GOD, THAT BOY LOOKS JUST LIKE MICHAEL—

Abort, abort!


After all these years I know just what not to do,

when grief shows up out of the blue eyes

of a little boy laughing,

doppelganger in a stroller

not fall at his feet,

not whisper my son’s name and weep.

Better his hovering mother think me rude

than finish my sentence,

or explain that silken blond hair can turn to straw

toddler eyes can go dark,

death can come

even to a boy like that

have to say I’m sorry to ruin your day

when I’m not,

not really.


Dawn’s son lies next to mine,

grave companions, you might say

clean picked bones shaped like two little boys,

two tiny metacarpals touching,

twin tibia, fibula,

sacral bones lying still

in their adjacent tombs,

beneath their marble stones.

Dawn knows.

She takes my hand,

yanks me away before I grow roots,

and grief can only hobble along behind us,

trying to keep up.

My son would have been thirty-one, she whispers,

Michael would have been eighteen, I say.

Toddlers into men.

Even the gods of imagination cannot make that leap.

I do not tell Dawn that sometimes

those gods animate our boys,

and they rise from the dead,

pink-cheeked, to play together

next to the tree in the cool air,

no affront to the blue sky,

grass, insects,

birds.


Sometimes I think I liked it better

when grief was young and enthusiastic,

weighed four thousand pounds,

screamed and screeched like a carnival troll,

slashed at my skin with its long claws,

hissed like the villain in a silent movie.

At least I knew where it was then,

It didn’t shuffle and creep up behind me

like an old woman with clouded eyes

begging for attention and pity,

offering only pathos

with her bag of hoary stuff--

her milky tubes,

pumping machines,

white coats

switching eyes

stripped bones


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