the friday personals: living in grief (with poets).


Writing without the deeply personal is not the whole story of grief. To give the whole story, to give as many handholds as possible in the steep climb of grief, we need to hear personal stories. Each Friday, I’ll post something from my own experience of grief and love. It’s an inside look at love, at grief, at life. This week, a poem I found in the archives of my earlier writing.

The poets and I have such a long history together – I’ve always leaned that way. One of the first books Matt shared with me, before we even started dating, was a collection of Rilke, a photo of Matt and his son serving as a bookmark. This was either unintentional, or his subtle way of sending me the words he wanted me to read. Knowing him, I vote for subtlety. Subtlety that could easily be passed off as unintentional if necessary, of course. 

To volley back, I shared another collection, the translations of Rilke by Joanna Macy. Over the years, we traded verses and paragraphs, reading to each other out loud or by secret, well-placed notes. We would leave each other messages in the newspaper, making those subtle marks of poetry and page, love notes in the margins. I still have the haiku he wrote for me, the faint lines of the wrong words still visible underneath the ones he settled on.

Love poetry coursing between us, then, and now. Just these days, it’s a little harder to find the marked passages.



Slowly now the evening changes his garments
held for him by a rim of ancient trees;
you gaze: and the landscape divides and leaves you,
one sinking and one rising toward the sky.
And you are left, to none belonging wholly,
not so dark as a silent house, nor quite
so surely pledged unto eternity
as that which grows to star and climbs the night.
To you is left (unspeakably confused)
your life, gigantic, ripening, full of fears,
so that it, now hemmed in, now grasping all,
is changed in you by turns to stone and stars.

from selected poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell



How about you? What are some of your favorite poets or poems? Did poetry course between you and the one you love? Let us know in the comments, or send me a message. I’d love to hear from you.