Monday, June 20, 2016

Poems of the Week ~ On Grief, Aging, and the Now, with Kerry, Karin and Elizabeth

This week, my friends, we are privileged to consider the topics of grief and aging, in wonderful poems by Kerry O'Connor of  Skylover and Skywriting,  Karin Gustafson of ManicDDailyand Elizabeth Crawford of Soul's Music. We do hope you enjoy them.

Kerry O'Connor

Sherry: Our friend Kerry recently wrote a poem about grief that literally took my breath away. She posted it on her second blog, Skywriting, and I knew I must share it, since we are all too familiar with life's passages through grief. Let's take a look.

Casting Grief

When I die, remember
that I have lived
as a pulsing point of light
in your inner sea,
and the tide that brought me to you,
has fetched me back again.

And then your life will be
a shore, clean swept
after the high flow of loving
each other,
brow to brow, knee to knee, those nights
we dreamed awake, we two.

When I am gone, content
yourself with knowing
we shared the salt and the surf

cast grief
down the wind, listen for me in the sigh
of waves upon sand.

copyright Kerry O'Connor January 30, 2016

Sherry: "And then your life will be a shore, clean-swept".....such a beautiful vision of death, dying and memory, Kerry. I especially love "Cast grief down the wind., listen for me in the sigh of waves upon the sand." So beautiful. Would you share with us your thoughts about this poem?

Kerry I'm afraid I don't have too much to say about the process. I tend to write by the seat of my pants, without much forethought or editing. One idea just chases its own tail until it comes to rest upon its haunches. I was affected. last year, by several unexpected deaths, a colleague, and three students from my school. At the time, I wondered what it must be for families to have no closure, and for the dying not to have a chance to bid farewell. Loss often comes with regrets and even some guilt, and I would wish to spare my own beloved ones that kind of grief. If anything, the poem arose from those thoughts.

Sherry: It is hard to lose a colleague. And how tragic it is when young lives are lost. How very hard for their families, their fellow students and teachers. I am so sorry, Kerry. Thank you so much for being this voice for them, so those who knew them can listen for them on the wind and in the song of the waves. What a beautiful thought that is.

Karin Gustafson, whom we see regularly at our sister site, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, and whose posts are always accompanied by her delightful sketches, especially of elephants, also addressed grief and aging around the same time. This gave me the idea of a feature on this theme.

Karin Gustafson

Night Mare

As I age, what the night mare carries
on her broad black back
is more often grief
than fear,
joys foregone rather than horrors
to come,
friends who never reached
their rightful ends,
the loved who had to leave,
with no more days
tucked up a sleeve, not even
a sleeve,
and I, who walk this earth
that mounds around them, weep
by the darkest side
of that night horse.
I cannot, in the remorse of here
even lean into her warm hide, cannot breathe the balm
of hard-run sweat, yet bending past
my divide, she nuzzles me; she
snorts, resettling her hooves
in sound sparks whose ring against the doved rise
of my winding sheet is so surprising
that I am able to turn, at last,
to the warmth,
in the way a tree might turn
when the wind winds down,
and apologize to those
who have gone.
But if they reply, I do not hear them
for those beats as the mare
moves on,
for those beats
as the mare
moves on.

copyright Karin Gustafson January 30, 2016

Sherry: So moving, Karin, "the loved who had to leave, with no more days". I find your repeating closing lines especially effective. Where did this poem come from?

Karin: I wrote the poem, Night Mare, in response to a prompt by Bjorn Rudberg about nightmares.  What came to mind for me were not dark dreams but the waking grief I sometimes feel  for lost friends and family members. This led me, in turn, to think of comparing such sudden waves of grief with an encounter with a night mare--that is, a horse carrying this grief on its back and in its person.  Thank you, Sherry, for including me in this grouping of wonderful poets! 

Here is a pic from my book, which will be called Dogspell. (This is a dog in a backpack.) 

Sherry: This is an adorable sketch (and backpack!) Congrats on a new book coming out. I love the title! Thanks, Karin, for allowing us to add your poem and thoughts to this conversation. 

For our third poem, let's turn to Elizabeth's "A Certain Loneliness". It is not a poem about grief, per se; it is about aging.  But there is an element of grief in aging, the counting up of our losses.  What I most love about Elizabeth's poem is that it offers a wonderfully positive conclusion. Let's dive in.


There is a certain loneliness that ripples
through the days of aging. A sort of twilight
zone that might snare a delicate psyche,
creating a cold slap that makes one gasp
while pausing to remember all of the losses.
But, there is a way to dial down this sort of
fall, even when grazing through these bleak
tufts of dust from the past, munching on what
best is left to the care of angels. Gladly turning
fragile wrist of time back toward the future.
Breaking its hold by recalling that past is past,
can not be changed, and all we really have is this
wet with life, present moment. Then deliberately
choosing to use it.
Elizabeth Crawford  1/3/16
Sherry: "...this wet with life present moment". How that reminds us, instead of mourning what we have lost, to be fully present in the Now, which will all too soon have passed. Yes, we have had many losses. But look how much we still have!! Thank you for this, my friend.

Elizabeth: It was the beginning of a New Year. Unlike others, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, because they often end up being self-defeating for me. Not a good way to begin. Instead, I like to reflect on the year just passed and list the positives and accomplishments. 

This year was different. I’ll be turning seventy in a few months. My reflections turned into an awareness centering on that reality. And to be honest, this poem became a note to myself more than anything else. A reminder that, no matter the number of years, each moment is precious and there is still a great deal to be accomplished.

Sherry: And you succeeded to perfection, my friend. Yes, so much to do! I am writing faster than at any time in my life!

In closing, may I say a grateful "thank you!" to you three talented and wonderful ladies! Thanks for starting our week off with such heart.

My friends, I hope you enjoyed these lovely poems as much as I enjoyed presenting them to you. Do come back and see who we talk to next. Who knows? It might be you!

down the wind, listen for me in the sigh
of waves upon sand.


  1. Thank you so much for the opportunity to feature alongside these amazing women and poets.

  2. What a wonderful compilation - thank you Sherry and Kerry, Karin and Elizabeth.. I found each unique and distinct poem positive - each affirming the need to be and to make the most of our being whatever the challenges...that's certainly not easy so to express it so eloquently and convey such a strong sense of what it means to be alive is a real art

  3. What a perfect choice (and theme of poetry) I love the share. Thank you

  4. Am happy you like it, my friends. I was blown away by each unique poem, and perspective. Am in a constant state of awe at the wonderful poetry we read day after day, week after week. We are so lucky!!!!!!!

  5. Kerry, I think we all would like people to remember that we lived as a pulsating point of light. Such a beautiful and thoughtful poem! Karin, wow - just wow - the image of the mare moving on is strong, so strong. Elizabeth, such a thoughtful poem. Yes, the loneliness that ripples through aging..but indeed one has to wrench oneself from the past and enjoy every moment of the present. Sherry, what a brilliant compilation you achieved here. Thank you all.

  6. Thank you Sherry, for including my work alongside Kerry and Karin's. And by the way, Karin and Kerry, you both took my breath away with your insights about grief and its process. Kerry, your poem made me realize how much I need to leave just such a message for those I love, and Karin, I know that night-mare, and have heard the beat of her hooves on more than one occasion. Have ridden her as she stampeded through days, but then brought me to a high mountain meadow where I could be still and start breathing again. Thank you both for sharing your beautiful words.


  7. Great choice of poets and their material, Sherry. A pleasure to stop in!

  8. Fabulously poignant poems by three wonderful poets. Enjoyed reading them. A great compilation Sherry..thank you all.

  9. Beautiful lines in perfect poetic language. Great choice Sherry on all the three poems. Kerry, K and Elizabeth have always been spectacular poets!


  10. this journey to grief is sometimes so overwhelming yet the experience is a life's lesson...beautifully penned in the poems by Kerry, Karin and Elizabeth...another wonderful selection Sherry...

  11. Yes, each poem really took my breath away. Elizabeth, that is a good idea, to leave just such a poem for our loved ones on our passing - a message that will mean so much then. I think I need to do the same.

  12. Yes indeed, a very enjoyable post, and much to reflect on. Many thanks Sherry, Kerry, Karin and Elizabeth.

  13. Thank you Sherry. I am sitting in my sisters kitchen in NY, and we have been reminiscing about those we laved in our family, that have gone. This is a beautiful collection of thoughts by some talented, wise people.

  14. Thank you Sherry for sharing these wonderful poets and their poems!! A really wonderful post!

  15. This post...each poet and poem...I've found to be incredibly moving and inspiring. Thank you, Sherry for bringing this treasure of a feature to us and much admiration and gratitude to the poets here today. ♥

  16. Many thanks for all the appreciation, and special thanks to the talented women whose work is featured, for bringing such wisdom and beauty to us in your work. I love my job!!!!!

  17. Sherry thanks for bringing these 3 brilliant poets and poems to us to read and cherish....I often write about grief and these were 2 very poignant poems...Elizabeth's aging poem was fabulous and so timely for me to read!

  18. Thank you Sherry for selecting these three insightful authors. Reading each poem, felt like I was reading something specifically dedicated to me, my current stage of life. All three poems touched me in a special way.

  19. I loved these Sherry! Thank you to all of you!

  20. I am speechless with emotion around loss and aging and their lonelinesses. I can only say thank you to these marvelous poets and to you, Sherry, for bringing these poems together.

  21. Dear Sherry--thanks so much for posting my poem with these two wonderful poems by Kerry and Elizabeth. I much enjoyed reading them. You know, every time I read work by other people and when I read my own too on a different site, I learn a huge amount-what I might do differently, etc. in my case--and in the case of the other poets--what they do so well. I really appreciate your giving me an opportunity to be part of this circle. (Sorry to be late in responding but I have been traveling and not as in touch with internet.) Take care and thanks again to you and to PU. K. (Maniccdaily who is somehow Outlawyer on Blogger!)

  22. Thank you, Sherry for highlighting these gifted women~ I am in awe of their talents and how they emotionally captive me~
    Kerry, Karin and Elizabeth-thank you!!!


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