Monday, October 20, 2008


Painting by Merissa Gilbert Garrison

Someone said it was
time to go. I was loathe
to leave the whispers behind.
We traveled huddled together,
a knot of professional mourners,
with pasty masks covering
our suntanned faces.

“Listen” broke our stride,
and we stopped on our path
in the middle of our thoughts.

Galloping out of nowhere
a troop of tumblers arrived
for our entertainment and distraction.
How could we have torn our cheeks
and gnashed our teeth, when we were
much amused by apparitions of acrobats,
who were able to leap and rise above
the curtain of our false grief?

Like ghosts always do, one by one,
they jumped and somersaulted into
the thin air around us, tumbling and
flying above our heads. We watched
them until they disappeared from sight –
somewhere way up the path over
a stand of buttonwoods.

Again, someone said it was time to go.
In unison, we adjusted our false faces,
shuffled in step, slumped our shoulders,
and hung our heads. We had to get back
to mourning the dead.


trooping with crows said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
trooping with crows said...

This one is an absolute dream sequence. The kind where none of it makes much sense, but you feel all the emotion and you sort of know you're dreaming, but you can't be sure.

It really is a bit disturbing. But the kind of disturbance that, as a reader, you tend to want. It's like, "This is so wonderfully sad and strange"

Sarah Hina said...

A brief, and fanciful, reprieve from the business of mourning. What visions you conjure, K!

I agree with the comment above about the dream-like nature of this interrupted march. And yet the joy that the dream apparitions culled is somehow more authentic than the false reality they've all conformed to. Interesting, and compelling, contradiction, K.

I can see them soaring...


blue possum said...

What a beautiful image! I was reading this as I was eating my lunch. I used my napkin to wipe a tear away, then I looked at the napkin and realized there was spaghetti sauce all over it! So I'm sure I look like a big mess now! haha

On a more serious note, I really had a joyful feeling when I read this. I think it's wonderful!!

Anonymous said...

A dismal message that weighs, but a true one. Embarrassed at the intrusion of enjoy. Driven by the regimentation of duty.

Hans Ford said...

the image you draw with your words enables me to invision parts of my past both good and bad,like the time we were walking through Gettysburg,seeing a group of what may have been mourners. keep the works coming, Please

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Trooping with Crows - I like the way you put it.."This is so wonderfully sad and strange."

When I wrote it, I had in mind that when we are steeped in grief, we need a small entertaining diversion, so that we won't go mad. Then after it is over, we are stronger somehow to face the necessary "hard" things of life. Thanks for your great analysis!

Sarah, Many thanks. Yes, as I replied to Trooping with Crows, grief can be overwhelming, and I imagined that a distraction might make one stronger to face the difficult things ahead. I posted this poem, mainly because of Halloween season...ghosts et,al. Glad it conjered up some soaring specters for you! :)

Blue Possum - LOL! Sorry about that! At least you didn't have egg on your face (to bring up an old idiom) only sauce! I am glad you liked the poem. :D

Jason...exactly. Somehow we get uncomfortable if we laugh in the midst of woe. But, I think our psyche tries to protect us somewhat, by allowing a little levity. This poem was one I entered in one of your contests. Your photos are wonderful writing prompts. (Hint, Hint)

Hans, I love it when I read a poem and it evokes the past, especially childhood memories. I know what you mean. I have been to Gettysburg and have seen phantom mourners, as well as live people who find themselves caught up in the human tragedy that took place there so many years ago. It would be impossible to separate Gettysburg from mourning and grief.

Aine said...

The duality of human-ness. We can feel sad and happy at the same time. Feelings are not mutually exclusive. And I agree that that is precisely our greatest source of strength.

The photo pairs your poem beautifully. Somehow they both capture the same complex feeling (for me, anyway).

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Aine - It is so true. I am in awe that, as humans, we can run the gamut of emotions in a day and still be okay at night. Thanks for your perceptive comment.

The artwork was done by my daughter - and yes, I thought it went well with the poem, too. Thanks!

rosetta said...

your poem brings to mind "should we not be joyous for those who pass on". I find myself in sadness more for the loss of a foot(in your previous poem) than possibly the loss of a person. They have moved on, one step above our sometimes troublesome world. Looking forward to more of your work.

severus said...

i see this as a metaphor for the transitions we experience in daily life, and the little moments of joy and distraction that can perforate a mundane day, and taking solace in the fact that another one of those moments is sure to come.

lilu said...

I love the thought of having a nice distraction during the sad times in our life. They seem to be there just long enough for us to get through then like the poem said they leave us. Beautifully done K.

And to Blue possum I cried over the sauce. haha

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Severus - well I think that you have hit on it. As Shakespeare wrote:
"... Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player who struts and frets his hour upon the stage and is heard no more..."

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your good insights!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Lilu - Well, I think it helps sometimes. I know one must concentrate on the moment, but just to get a little reprive is good. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Lilu - nice to see you. :)