II – The Person That You Were Will Be Replaced
In grief the person that you were is replaced by grief …
not the person you originally were but the one you’d become.
Grief is opportunistic and uncontrollable
it doesn’t exactly come
from you, you “allow it in” It’s godlike
as in possession.
This was the night I was the craziest: near my birthday,
four months after Ted’s death, walking
on Second Avenue I thought “It’s possible
he didn’t really die.” I felt a maniacal joy
and then became sickened and distressed
I knew a depth of me had, up to then, believed he was alive.
That depth was now emptied of him and filled with grief.
I dreamed all that year; I divided into dreamer and interpreter
A gigantic horse blocks
the entrance to
my building; I wake up and think “The horse is a hearse”
blocking my life. Or
a dream with a dawn in it, the sky purple-black,
but a hint of dawn, and when I awake I know it’s the sky
in Lawrence’s “Ship of Death”—thin white
thread—trying its way.
If a self can
contain the deaths of others, it’s very large;
it’s certainly larger than my body
If the other who dies is partly me,
and that me dies and another grows, the medium it grows in
The wish to locate absence, that contemporary obsession to
find the empty present—
grief will saturate the present.
Grief isn’t glandular; though becomes somatic;
gets far into your body. Eats it changes it.
One is magically struck down at certain
moments, can’t move, can’t arise,
and inside is poison: grief gets caught
in intensifying pockets which when opened
cause sensations of illness. On Christmas morning
I can’t stand up.
If you immerse your feet in icy water
you forget grief for a moment. I did this once, my
brother-in-law made us cross a cold stream barefoot,
that winter, walking in the woods—I was emptied, then elated,
blissful; but didn’t try it again. Grief
returns vengeful after you’ve repulsed it.
from Mysteries of Small Houses (1998)
Poetry of Ted Berrigan (1934 – 1983)