Saturday, March 18, 2006

I finished reading...

... Marie Howe's What the Living Do the other evening, and I admit it made me cry. It is filled with such pure emotion, pain, acceptance, and truth without a hint of sentimentality or excuse. The middle section, unnamed, is about the death, the slow death, of her brother. Each poem is personal---far more personal than the leeway ever 'given' in a poetry workshop---and in part because of that they are so successful.

It is these poems about the death of her brother Andy, toward the end of that section, that persuaded my own tears. When you have lost someone close to you, like my mother who passed away in September 2004, similar losses can trigger the immediate loss, the immediate inability to cope in any way other than that sadness. And that is acceptable, necessary.

Now it's true that I'm an overly sentimental kind of guy. Not sappy, mind you, but my wife has accused me of getting all teary eyed at certain commercials. Only partly true. I didn't, for example, cry in Brokeback Mountain. I did cry in Phenomenon, however.

And, suddenly overwhelmed with something that wasn't even happening, I cried the other evening, as well. I came home after work to find the house empty. My wife and daughters were not here, the vehicle gone, no note. I called both her cell phone and work phone, with no answer. And then, as I was washing dishes, this unexpected sense of foreboding came over me. What if there was an accident? What if they were seriously hurt, or worse? If they were gone, how could I go on? What about their rooms, the life we had made in this house, the take-for-granted-but-still-essential daily routines. How could I exist without them?

I had to tell myself to get a hold of myself. Pull yourself together, man.

By the time my wife called to let me know she had taken our daughters with her to work late, I had recovered. But there are these moments of vulnerability, of human interconnectedness. And it makes me wonder how people who lose whole families, whole communities, to war and natural disaster, cope. How they recover.

And perhaps they never do. They don't recover but simply move on.

In reading What the Living Do, Howe's way of moving on from not only her brother's death, but other deaths and the crises of childhood as well, is through the power and relevancy of her poetry. That speaks personally to us all.


Sheryl said...

I think it is wonderful that you can write about such loss. This is the beauty in sorrow. I am enjoying your blog.

Simmons B. Buntin said...

Thanks Sheryl, and welcome!