The early train: Slice of Life 23/31 #SOL20

This morning, I woke knowing what day it was. My mother-in-law had posted this message to remember her son, my brother-in-law, D’Arcy:

12 years ago today, my son boarded what I have come to think of as “the early train”.  You know the train – the one we all inevitably, eventually board.  To those of you who have recently, or are about to, undergo a loss that stuns and overwhelms you:  I can’t tell you how, or why, or when, but for me the time came when thoughts of my son turned from searing hand-on-the-stove kind of pain to a flooding of tenderness with the embrace of the deepest love I have ever known.  I suspect that time will come for most of you. It won’t come quickly, though you might feel it in brief waves, early on. Hang in, hang on, reach out. 

Year after year, I am touched by how she expresses herself on this day. She shares freely what is often hidden and, though I know she will scoff, I feel that her sharing has become wisdom. She will say it is simply what it is – we don’t get much choice in situations like this. He is not here; we are. We must continue to live.

Today, I am sharing a poem. It makes me quake in my boots because I am *always* nervous about poetry – and obviously this is one I just wrote this morning, so now I’m sharing a draft! That said, I am inspired by the way fellow bloggers Not The Whole Story or Reflections on the Teche or Nix the Comfort Zone express themselves in poetry (not every day, but often). And an old friend suggested that poetry is a good way to deal with uncertainty.

I can’t quite explain why all of this came together for me in this way, but there it is. And, I want to be clear: the death in the middle is not my child but my brother-in-law. We miss him every day.

Untitled for now

My first son came slowly.
He hesitated, reluctant to be rushed.
“Push,” the midwife urged me, “you’re going to have to push.”
Wait wait wait
I was focused, determined
Pushing, pushing, pushing
Against the waves, with the waves of urgent pain
My world for as long as I could remember
My world forever
My world for mere moments
Receded then returned as
A flooding of tenderness, as the deepest love I will ever know.

Today, the snow falls lightly
White white white
A thin covering over the gray, dirty snow we wish away.
For a few minutes, a few hours, forever
The world is purified.
We remember the beauty of Winter
While we long for a Spring we imagine, beautiful.
And Spring will come
Messy, muddy, melting until the rotted remnants of life
Revealed as death under the dirty snow.
Spring will wake
Wet, insistent, unrelenting with its green promises.
Spring will force us to accept the hope
Concealed by this thin white cover .

Twelve years ago today we woke to a changed world
Because twelve years ago today he did not wake.
No fresh snow covered the gray.
Spring’s muddy mess pushed forward, pushed forward
And he did not.
That year we fought hope forever, for mere moments.
Yet Spring came, unrelenting.

My second son came quickly
His will to be in the world overwhelming.
“I’m pushing,” I cried, though I had just sent the midwife for medicine.
Now now now
Animal, insistent
Pushing, pushing, pushing
Against the waves, with the waves of urgent pain.
My world for as long as I could remember
My world forever
My world for mere moments
Receded then returned as
A flooding of tenderness, the deepest love I will ever know.

Today, the snow falls lightly
A reminder that last week, last month, last year
We played in this cold, wet miracle.
Tomorrow, the rain will come.
We will revel in the messiness of Spring,
The searing pain of the memories transformed
To a flooding of tenderness,
The deepest love we will ever know.

The pain is really the briefest sense of undertow as we play in the waves of his presence.

 

And here is the poem my mother-in-law wrote this poem a few days after D’Arcy’s death:

The Early Train

some are travelling northbound
their cheeks flushing pink with the cold
some are travelling sideways
moving west or moving east
some lose tickets, miss the gate
either way, theirs is to wait
and some    are bound for the early train
one      has taken the early train

copyright © mls March 29 2008

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12 thoughts on “The early train: Slice of Life 23/31 #SOL20

  1. Sharing can become wisdom. Thanks for sharing your words and your mother-in-law’s. I hear you both echoing in each other’s writing, in your uses of repetition and accessible, impactful imagery.

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  2. Two years ago I started participating in April poem a day challenges, thanks to Trina. When no one in the group from the previous year had plans to blog their poems last year, I joined Sarah Donovan’s challenge on her blog Ethical ELA. That community meant so much to some of us that it evolved into the monthly 5-day writing challenge, which I’ve done every month since June 2019. Sarah is hosting the 5-day challenge again this year. You should join.

    I love the image of nature and a child pushing, the commingling of the ocean and mud in your poem. My two sons’ births took similar trajectories, one hard, one easy. It’s the push/pull of life and life’s tides.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have been intrigued by the poem-a-day challenge, but it always seems like so MUCH. I think I could be pulled into a 5-day writing challenge, though. And I’ve dipped my toes into Margaret’s recent Thursday posts “This picture wants to be a poem.” Thanks for the encouragement and the invitation. I think I’ll join- with trepidation!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. So incredibly beautiful and tragic and full. The story which introduces the poem, the way you can’t figure out why “this all came together today” is the mystery of life, of writing. Whatever muse is dancing about your aura, it makes itself known in your teaching and writing.

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  4. Poetry is sometimes the best way to express tragedy and loss, so thank you for your poems and I’m sorry for the loss of your brother-in-law and a mother for her son, so sad. I love the refrain ‘a flooding of tenderness’.

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  5. The words your mother-in-law continues to weave together to share her feelings about D’Arcy’s too-early departure from this world are incredible. How does one move forward from losing a child? It’s something I never want to know since that’s not how the order of things should work. But she is clearly navigating grief through beautiful words.

    Your poetry is poignant, Amanda. I hope you continue to write poems.

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  6. What a gorgeous poem, Amanda! I absolutely know how you are feeling. Sharing poetry is so personal, revealing so much. Thank you for sharing these beautiful words. I hope that you do it again

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  7. You should write more poetry. This is a loving, lovely poem and it holds the deepest personal which becomes the most universal. I know this pushing for life, with my daughters coming and my grandsons. I also feel the depth of loss from you and from your dear mother-in-law. When we are touched by life experiences, poetry can give voice and speak of knowing we didn’t know we had. Write more poetry.

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  8. Your poem puts mine to shame today! I feel like I need to print this out and see it and take notes. Each part tells such a story. I love how you used your mother-in-laws words at bookends. This is some draft!

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  9. I’ve come back already today trying to figure out how to respond. The writing is beautiful – all of it. The repetition and memories and cadence of your poem, and the mystery of your mother-in-laws. If I didn’t know it was about losing her child it could be about a lot of things. Your writing is so raw and full of emotion!

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  10. I have needed to cry, cry hard, needed to cry again, this day and so many days before this. This poem. This poem is what I needed. “I can’t quite explain why all of this came together for me in this way…” That, I think, is the weird magic of poetry. I almost feel possessed with words that come to me from some unknown place. If I don’t write them down right away, they quite disappear, never to come out in the same way. Your way, these words that came out of you, are perfect. No editing required. I’m yearning for more of this from you. I am also crying again. There is so much to love here, but this part resonates:

    Messy, muddy, melting until the rotted remnants of life
    Revealed as death under the dirty snow.
    Spring will wake
    Wet, insistent, unrelenting with its green promises.

    Also, I think you should watch the movie Paterson. And, also, from one poet to another, thank you.

    Like

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