Patterns of Grieving

in writing •  8 months ago

Hello Steemians,

Today I'd like to share a poem I've been working on about my father's passing. He died nearly ten years ago of multiple myeloma, a form of cancer that affects the blood and the bone marrow. Writing about him helps me navigate the continual grieving process and move forward without his guidance.

This particular poem was part of my thesis in graduate school, and I am working on a group of poems from the thesis to submit to publication. With that in mind, your critiques and comments are welcome. It is wonderful to see the many talented writers and artists who are part of Steemit, and I look forward to getting to know your work, too.

A note about the photo: I have chosen this photo of candles to illustrate this poem. It is from a search on Pexels, a free stock photo website.

Patterns of Grieving


October. The priest reciting prayers at the front didn't know him.
All night I expect him, search for him the the faces of his colleagues
as they clasp my hands in theirs.

My heel snags the worn carpeting as I shift my weight,
heavy enough to sink.

As the night wears on, the lights become too bright.
I fail to recognize a family friend, two co-workers, my cousin.


My father is no longer himself. A series of beeps and blips,
bright blots and endless lines drifting across screens,
packets of graphs held together with binder clips
the way his back is fused with cement. The head
that lists to the left isn't his, the X-ray the doctor
holds up and points to where the brain swells isn't his.
The parts do not add up.


As my father's illness progressed, the list of words
I couldn't utter grew: myeloma lesions fissures surgery
kyphoplasty Revlimid Velcade Milwaukee hospital specialist
cardiologist COPD intensive care traechiotomy morphine.


I finally dream a dream
removed from a hospital room.
We're at a drive-in. My father is dying
but joking about dying. He nudges my sister,
tells her I'm worrying for nothing.

You should have heard her on the phone with your grandmother, he says.
We weren't talking about you, I say. You think everything is about you.


Here's what I know about the color blue:
Color of his eyes during rare moments of clarity,
color of his bloated hands and feet, color of scrubs the nurses wear.
Color of bruises inside his mouth where the tub rubs,
color of icy fingers that flirt with him. Color of his mind,
river dividing the separate realities that cleave to his body,
color of blood and a language I cannot speak.


After the morphine drip started,
the hospital staff left a fruit basket beside my father's bed.
Did they really think we'd be able to eat?


In December I almost bruned the house down.
A hot mitt stuck to the bottom of a cookie sheet
and caught fire in the oven. My husband clasped
the flaming mitt between two work gloves, tossed
it into the sink, and told me to take a walk.
Outside I began to enjoy myself.
With each movement, I re-learn caution.


Outside the hospital room, my mother and I stuffed the clothes
he would no longer need into his suitcase.
She gasped when a wad of bills fell from his wallet—
$700 cash wrapped around a stick of paper
with my parents' frequent flyer numbers.
She had told him to leave his wallet at home.


A pallbearer shows up after the service has started.
Consequently, my father's body is unbalanced
when they carry him between the pews.
Perhaps now there isn't a need for balance.
Perhaps order is something to which only the living cling.

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Beautiful, death is hard to deal with.

Time moves so quickly. I feel overwhelmed when I think of my age and everything I thought I would have done by now. So many things I wish I did. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm just going to get so wrapped up in the grind of everyday that my whole life is going to pass me by.

It sounds like that wasn't the case for your father. Not only having daughters but having one who publishes beautiful poetry about you. Really an amazing accomplishment.


Thank you, @kirkins, for your thoughtful response. I’ve only been here for a few days but delighted by the openness and the kindness of the Steemit community. Yes, my dad had a larger-than-life personality, and he gave us a full lifetime of joy. I miss him deeply but I am so grateful for my time with him. You’re right: life does move quickly, and his early death is a reminder to me to savor our time on this amazing planet.

Moving piece. Grieving is such an intensly personal process, yet certain themes of grief are universal. I feel your grief through the lens of my own. Thank you for sharing your words.


Thanks for your comment—it’s nice to meet another writer here who is also new to Steemit.

I think we are soul sisters, the difference probably is the age...LOL! My guess is you are pobably half my age or even younger. I also wrote a poem in connection with my dad´s passing and yes he also died of cancer (lungs). Although he was not smoking in his later years... I´ll give you the link so you can have a look...

I love your poem... it is similar to the ones I wrote. My younger brother died of cancer too, but that was in 1994 at age 35 ... He had a chondro sarcoma, a one in a million cancer of the tissues.


Many wonderful things have happened since I joined Steemit, but meeting a soul sister is the best one. :)Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your poem. I enjoyed it very much and left a comment on your post. I am sorry to hear that you lost your father and your brother to cancer as well. We are lucky, though, to be part of a community that can help us hold our grief and remember our loved ones.