“Every Grief Requires its Grief”

True Night

So it is midnight, and all
The angels of ordinary day gone,
The abiding absence between day and day
Come like true and only rain
Comes instant, eternal, again:As though an air had opened without sound
In which all things are sanctified,
In which they are at prayer—
The drunken man in his stupor,
The madman’s lucid shrinking circle;

As though all things shone perfectly,
Perfected in self-discrepancy:
The widow wedded to her grief,
The hangman haloed in remorse—
I should not rearrange a leaf,

No more than wish to lighten stones
Or still the sea where it still roars—
Here every grief requires its grief,
Here every longing thing is lit
Like darkness at an altar.

As long as truest night is long,
Let no discordant wing
Corrupt these sorrows into song.


Alvin Feinman

NOTE:  I chose to post this poem on the night of September 10th because I was thinking of 9/11 the next day and stumbled upon Reginald Shepherd’s blog and Alvin Feinman.  I’d never heard of either of them till then.  I was stunned with the virtuosity of this poem by Feinman and almost equally stunned that I couldnn’t find his work in print.  But I was also deeply moved by Shepherd’s blog.  It’s impossible to read what he wrote there without coming to know something of the illness and physical pain he’s suffered over the last years.  The post I read that night described symptoms and diagnoses that I knew, from personal experience, would mean that Shepherd would not be long in this world.

As it turned out, I was heartbreakingly correct.  The very next day, I received news from Julie, a frequent visitor to this blog and a wonderful poet-blogger herself, that Reginald Shepherd had died, the very night before, the night I posted this poem.

Shepherd touched me deeply in that short time, as perhaps only a poet can.  I have also been moved by the depth of sorrow in the American poetry community following upon his death and by the tributes to him.  Julie and I have been talking about this in comments and I’ve posted some links there.  There is something deeply poignant about finding a poet in the moment he died, through his passing and onward.  The more of us who discover him, the more likely the poetry will live.  His friend and blogger, Christopher Hennessey at ]Outside the Lines has his own comments and many links to Shepherd’s work and to the tributes to his life and work.  He has updated an original post with links and perhaps will keep doing so.

My deepest sympathies to Christopher.

12 thoughts on ““Every Grief Requires its Grief”

  1. I need to think of new adjectives, because these come to mind: amazing, awesome, fabulous, excellent. What music and form. Those last three lines are so powerful.

    Thank you for sharing Feinman’s work…and for Reginald Shepherd’s blog. I am always in awe of the masters.

  2. Yes. Knocked me out too. I can’t remember how I found Reginald’s blog – surfing I guess. But I love both of them as well. I’m only very afraid for Reginald’s health! As for Feinman, I can’t even find his poetry at Abe Books. A shame. I suspect he’s only to be found in anthologies.

  3. Hmm. No. You’re not wrong sister. When I read Reginald’s post talking about his illness, I knew it was really very bad news and that it would not be long – from my experience with family members who have also been that sick. But it is strange to have connected with Reginald in this very brief time. He was a kindred soul and I will light a candle for him. His poor partner!

    Thanks for letting me know Julie. My heart almost stopped when I saw your message. Beating again. Last night, I had a dream that the world came to an end. I think I’m going to have to try to write a poem about it. It was amazing.

  4. I’m so sorry to be the big mouth bearer of bad news. I was just stunned. I love his work, but I had just found his blog through your site. Thank you for that, though. It was a gift.

    I’m still grieving for a dear friend who died of cancer several years ago. She was a dancer. An amazing woman. And so beautiful. I haven’t been able to write a poem about her yet. Again, I get too emotional. I will eventually.

    But please do write a poem about your dream! I would love to read it. What a scary dream that must have been!! That could make for a very powerful poem. If you do, please let me know.

    As always, I’m so glad you are here:)

  5. I would rather know about Reginald than not, Julie, so you’re not the “big mouth bearer of news”. Perhaps finding a poet and a wonderful writer in him draws us close to him quickly, I don’t know, but I do feel his loss from the world.

    I’m so sorry about the friend you are grieving. Cancer has cast a big shadow in my life and I do understand. As well, I have a cherished cousin who is struggling right now with a cancer like Reginald’s. That’s why I recognized what was happening right away. I do so hope that the outcom for my cousin isn’t the same as for Reggie, though we never know, do we?

    I’m so glad you’re here too Julie. I love it!

  6. Oh, thank you! And thank you so much for the links you left at my site. I was thinking of doing a tribute, but I’m such a techno-dummy, I didn’t want it to look cheesy. This will be a lovely one to pass along.

    Isn’t it uncanny?? I had just looked at your site, and we were talking about how much we like his work, and he had just passed. Yes, I think we’re really connected. You’re so right…often in unknown ways.

    I do hope things go well for your cousin. You must have so many things on your mind with that. My friend died, my beloved aunt died, but my husband survived. Grief…then a blessing. Isn’t life weird?

    He was in the final stages of extensive hodgkins lymphoma when diagnosed and has been cancer free for ten years now. You’d never know he was sick a day in his life to be around him. The doctors said it was the “best” kind of cancer to have. Shew. What an ordeal. It lasted for a few years. He doesn’t like me to talk about it too much, because he says people treat him differently if they know. But I might post a few of the poems from those days if he doesn’t mind. I am so, so thankful he’s well but will never stop worrying.

    Sorry to blab so much. Take care & I’ll say it again…I am so glad to have YOU!

  7. > There is something deeply poignant about finding a
    > poet in the moment he died, through his passing and
    > onward.

    Indeed! I am not sure how but in reading something about David Foster Wallace, I came upon Reginald Shepherd’s blog.

    Somehow that last post, the comments left at the post, and the poem by Alvin Feinman have all left me feeling something I cannot quite put in words. That wonderful poem by Feinman alone is enough to get me all emotional, remembering my dad, who died earlier this year…. but the combination of the post, reading about Shepherd’s death, and the comments there put me over the edge.

    RIP, Reginald. I did not know of you before today but I am sure you will live on in the memories of your friends (and strangers like me) through your poems and words.

  8. Thanks for stopping by Sanjeev, even under these circumstances, I’m so sorry about the loss of your father. I lost my Dad eight years ago and sometimes it still feels very close.

    I hope there is some comfort for you in sharing. Take good care of yourself.

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