In the second half of nearly every writing workshop, I offer three or four phrases as prompts. On this particular night, I offered four:
What is the point of all this chaos?
Chocolate is the answer.
That’s the way love goes.
The dead are not dead (from the poem by Birago Diop)
I was inspired by the last one, and wrote the following in response.
The poem insists the dead are not dead: they are in the trees, in the wind, in the house, and some higher part of me knows on a cellular level that this is true. That my mother exists in the face of my nephew, that my father hovers in the steam from the shower.
That said, I can’t help but whine a little and tell you that I think dying sucks. Oh, you can psychoanalyze me or break it down into a Buddhist teaching, my fear of mortality, but the truth is I don’t like losing people. You can tell me it’s a part of life, that everything changes form, and I thank you very much Marianne Williamson, but I tell you I don’t like it at all. It sucks.
And stop telling me that I can talk to them anytime I want to, that they’re looking out for me in Heaven, that they’re out of pain, because the truth is I miss them, everyday in every way, I will miss them and miss them.
Can you just witness this longing, this anger, this pain, and stop trying to make me accept it? Can I just have a shitty little moment and say FUCK THIS? And please don’t ask me to deal with my anger: let me feel it. This emptiness, this hollowness, this where did you go? phenomenon that everybody says is a normal part of grief. Survivor. One of the living. Descendants.
I can complain if I want to, can’t I? I can. I will. Don’t try and stop me. Please. Don’t try. Let me wail and bitch, let me desire what I can never recover, let me beg the ghosts from the dream world to come more often, because I am hungry for them, lonely for them, angry at this molecular, physical world that begins to die at twenty-one years-old and ends up as ashes in a plastic bag. Nobody knows what to do with that. Nobody.