Five Stages

Loss, a sculpture by Jane Mortimer
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge via Unsplash


Five Stages


1. Denial

It has no room in this house,
she said. Leave it at the door.
Tie it to the fence. Let it whimper
and slobber away from my table.
I cannot feed one more hunger.
When night comes, you may
feed it your children, if you wish.
The door slammed shut, the windows
closed to slits, like wary eyes.

Days later, grief and I walked
through the ruins. Nothing
left, not even a scrap of food.
Her body was hunched over
the table, as if to protect its bounty.
Crows had picked everything clean.
Crows had picked her eyes clean;
sparrows and thrushes took off
with strands of her hair.
She was finally generous.

2. Anger

In the morning, the meadow
bleeds light. Buried
under the soil, the sacred
roots, the secret conversations.
Germinate, tuber, rhizome.
Stem, tendril, bract, corolla.
Heads thrown upward,
as if plants could cup
the whole sky in their mouths.
Some things don’t take root,
no matter how deeply buried.
Forgive us our trespasses
as we carve a path,
the flowers’ red throats
snapping under our feet.

3. Bargaining

The sunset still falls like a blade
over the sea, cutting deep
into its heaving belly.
It brings out a half-born moon,
red as a sleepless eye.
I count my days without you
by that dumb blinking.

Each breath is a hatchet.
In its wake, birds fall from the sky,
folding their wings in acceptance.
Easy to splinter one’s breastbone.
Tomorrow will begin
on this threshold, where a shadow
carves amnesia like stale bread.

4. Depression

The path is overgrown with statues—
a myriad states of sorrow.
Multiple eyes, all closed.
Multiple hands, all claw-like.
There’s a gate at the end,
where the grass grows faster
than your advancing footsteps.
Have I mentioned the twilight?
It’s almost too late.
Hurry, step out of this body,
its frozen, forgotten expression
already turning to stone.

5. Acceptance

You never knew it unless you talked
to my mother. She had a way
of painting things blue. Put
a stone in your pocket, she’d say.
Its familiar edges smoothed down
by a thousand grasps. Its weight
lighter with each passing day.

I hold mine in my palm.
I marvel at the lines on its skin.
Where it ends, I end.

First published in Quiddity, Volume 12, Issue 2, January 1, 2020




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