Grief Revisited, with Hopeful Signs – Sorrow in Seventeen Syllables


“Here’s to Dad, gone to glory these 6 years tonight. God is good to have given us good parents.”

My middle brother texts my eldest brother and me. The eldest responds and then I do as well. In a few moments, in the middle of our evenings, we pause briefly to remember a man who meant so much to us. We honor him in speaking to one another in memory.

Each year on this day, and in many moments in between, I remember my father. Some years the loss has been heavy, as I miss his person, the companionship of his presence. Some times this loss, along with a congregation of other losses and disappointments has seemed like a solid core, a black hole, in the center of my being, effecting everything with its gravity. This year, though, with the help of a counselor, I have been working at having a look at that core and undoing its power, or if you will, choosing to pass into it,  hoping, wondering what surprises just might await when I emerge from the other end. The signs are hopeful.

So, this year, as I do most years, I revisit this piece that I wrote exactly one year after Dad died in 2010. Now, I am not so crippled with grief; to quote one haiku below, I do not feel its crushing weight. I am more able to reflect simply on the loveliness that was Vincent Amrit Das, on the sweetness of his person, of the sweetness of the relationship we had with one another.

This piece first appeared in Catapult Magazine. The haiku work backward in time over the course of year, with a concluding reflection.



Sorrow in 17 Syllables

Working Backward Through a Year of Grieving

November 7, 2011
A house of mourning
Or of mirth? Enter both. It
Will be the same door.

August 29
the dream, the sort you
claw to stay asleep — you, sick;
me, your care to keep

June 21
at Aldi i feel
you amidst the aisles, amazed
at all the bargains

at home i shift some
cans you bought, and smile to reap
this Happy Harvest

June 9
you in your boxers
and banyan*, eating melons;
rinds curved like your smile

in summers, eating
melons with you; cool like an
evening in eden

* a Punjabi word for an a-shirt undershirt

June 6
into illinois,
traveling old roads; driving
past into present

April 25
we always had two
minds on rain; its lovely greys,
its melancholy

in the chair asleep;
the afghan nestling legs that
always found the breeze

we take lunch and tea,
the rain still falling; your smile
to me like sunshine

April 2
landscape collapsing;
a mine subsiding; the face
of someone weeping

March 18
oh, come that Day that
backward cheers all our weathers;
eternal sunshine

March 18
my gas bills lower;
patching through winter, doing
without you to warm

March 13
now the sod is like
patchwork on grandma’s quilts; you
sleeping till the Day

February 12
in this hard steel town
black and white and brown; smelted,
at the dmv

at the dmv,
waiting, waiting, waiting, for
the freedom to move

we have science now
for grief to travel; hearing
your cell phone ringer

February 9
when at dusk the day
collapses, i feel the weight;
light pressed into dark

escaping the crush
of dusk, the light emerges,
settling into stars

January 28
medicine boxes
no longer measuring days
sit still on the sill

December 16
upon tickling
you’d laugh and smile; silliness
serious as death

December 1
I miss you. Eager.
Hello Kitty, horses, cars.
Target dollar aisle.

November 9
coming home at dusk,
leaves sunk into dimness; my
father’s weary voice

coming home at dusk,
incandescent greeting; my
father’s cheery voice

November 7, 2010
After a lovely indolent Sunday in which we rest and eat and watch television together, in which he talks to each of his grandchildren and sons, my father calls me back from visiting with friends in the evening with a fear-filled voice. An ambulance comes and within two hours a doctor finishes her hushed visit with me and my brother with the words, “And then he did die.”

The picture at the head of this piece is the second to last picture I ever took of my father, taken on that day. He is standing in his beloved patch of kitchen sunlight. He is feeling a whole lot more of that now.


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