“The Thing Is”
by Ellen Bass
To love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
Someone I hardly know emailed this to me today, out of the blue. Someone I used to work with…who I haven’t heard from in months or even years. She doesn’t know that my husband died almost a year ago. She doesn’t know anything about my grief, my struggle, the underlying sadness that permeates my life. I have no idea why she sent it and I suspect it’s somehow one of those “accidents” that were really meant to be, because it’s so appropriate to what I have been thinking about lately.
I love this poem because it puts into words what I was trying to explain to another friend. Somehow, every time life has knocked me down during these last 11 months and 7 days, I have gotten back up. Inexplicably, I keep saying “yes” to life. And I really can’t explain it because it is not a conscious choice. The best I can figure is that my soul has a super-human will to live. It picks me up time and again and propels me forward towards…what…? Whatever it is that I am here on this earth to do. A life forever changed but heartbreakingly beautiful all the same – maybe even more than it would have been had I not touched bottom on the fathomless pit of loss.
I feel like a tiny green shoot in the middle of a vast, burned out field. Tiny, but hopeful. I know that good things await.