A poet that I have come to love is Billy Collins. I took several of his collections to our summer vacation and spent relaxing afternoons on the front porch, reading aloud and transcribing favorites into my poetry journal, complete with a glass of wine or summer ale, or both. See post on reading blog for more.
I recently found and have been listening to free online poetry courses:
- Poetry: What It Is and How to Understand It by Margaret Soltan, Associate Professor of English, George Washington University
- Modern Poetry by Langdon Hammer, Professor of English, Yale University
The main thing I've learned from the courses and the blog is how to be a "close reader" of poetry. To date, I've been content to add poems to my book without much thought on how and why the poem touches me. Maybe because to do so invites dormant pain and suffering to surface. This certainly happened yesterday when I journaled through Rossetti's short but powerful poem at a new coffee shop, close to Josh's park. Luckily no one came by to see if I was OK - who knows, maybe women shedding tears while reading and writing is a common occurrence.
by Christina Rossetti
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
In my journal:
Death took Josh away - he is gone….gone far way to a "silent land" where I cannot follow. No more can I tousle his hair or tap his behind or talk about what the future may hold. So there are multiple deaths that I grieve - not only his physical presence but his future, our family's future. I was reminded of this when looking at a friend's family photo at her daughter's recent wedding - this I will not have.
"It will be late to counsel then or pray" - Death is irrevocable, irretrievable, irreversible. Whatever one meant to do or say, once Death comes, it will be too late. This is also difficult with a tragic, unexpected death - one is not prepared physically or emotionally for such a sudden, abrupt end - there are too many loose ends. I call them Would've, Could've and Should've which in turn, fuel Regret and Guilt, close cousins to Grief.
The poem acknowledges Death as "darkness and corruption" but whose power is limited. A "vestige" is left - these are the mannerisms, sayings, quirks, habits, tendencies, like and dislikes that made Josh, Josh. Death has no ownership over these memories; they remain with the living.
I can hear Josh in the final words - "Mom, it is OK if you forget for a while - don't feel guilty when it happens. And when you do remember, I would rather you smile than be sad."
I will try but easier said than done, my son.