More than ever, writing is a means of salvaging the past. If I write about the weeping willow on the roadside that no longer exists, then it isn't dead. If I write about a day, a room, an encounter, a feeling, then it isn't lost. I've saved it from the void.

Tennessee Williams had a sister named Rose. She had delusions. Their mother allowed a lobotomy to be performed on her. Williams's tortured relationship with Rose (he felt guilty for not protecting her) surfaces in many of his plays.

In bed, reading as the rain falls.

But does an obsession make you a writer? Does grief make you a writer?

Something will come--it always comes--to devastate me.

I was almost mute as a child. People asked me if I could speak.

My relationship to time. My fear of it. The sense that it is drowning me, that I'm caught in a wave, being pulled away from what I love.

Grief sewn into me.

I forget in great swathes and remember in fragments.

Beautiful words: opaline, opalescent.

The unspoken, the unwritten, can kill you.

That moment when the full force of everything you've survived hits you and you feel like you're going to collapse.

Obsession is good. Obsession keeps me alive.

Grief is my obsession.

It's like grief gave birth to me. It's the defining experience of my life, all I know. Grief will also be the death of me.

Bear witness to your life. Bear your life.

I always feel like I'm writing what cannot be written but I must find the words and even if they're not enough they are all I have.

I fight to the death with language.

It still kills me that my father is dead. Writing the words "my father is dead" is unbearable.

You will write the grief one day. No, you're already writing it, in scraps and pieces that can be sewn together somehow.

I used to look at the trees and cry.

Don't let go--let in. Let in love, light, grief. Let in death.

When I'm alone, I read poetry aloud. I like hearing my voice fill a room.

I have an ache in my chest that I call father.

Writing as a way to remember the dead, speak to them.

Dreams take me to you

Grief is air, it's all around.

I can't do metaphor. I don't want to compare the feeling or experience to another thing. I want to write the feeling itself, the thing outside language, the thing that makes language impossible.

What is life? An accumulation of loss.

Must write these thoughts so they live outside me.

The unsaid always remains the unsaid

What do words make me feel? Alive, solid, substantial.

Talking to the dead before they're dead.

I write more about the dead than the living

Writing that resurrects

I made this of you. I made this for you.

Andrea Gibson - Piano

“The casket is a ladder,” says the preacher.
I remember the ring you gave me,
how I smashed it into pieces trying to decide
if it was real.

What note could you have left
for your mother’s favorite black dress
worn here?

For your brother outside the window
in the suit he wore to prom
smoking his heart into hatchet?

For your father refusing to take a tissue,
embarrassing the men with the nervous coughs?

For the car your cousin keeps calling a limo?
For your baby sister asking
why they are calling it a wake?

Last night I tore the feathers from my pillow
searching for the songs of the birds.

Morning came silent
as your bones,
and now your face, here
in this empty box,
resting like a piano on fire.

Is this the place
you wanted to go
the night I swallowed your cock like an opera
and your makeup melted from your cheekbones
onto the whiskey spilled dirt?

When you walked me home
the earth was still
between my teeth.
My lungs were an attic full of dust.

You kept flipping through
the photographs on my breath.
Everything inside me
was overexposed,
the glitter in my tough,
the slur in my family tree.

When I asked you to stay
my jaw was not a hinge.
There was nothing open in the question.

We all have bullets beneath our skin
we pray our lovers won’t flinch at when they find.
We all have sirens in our light.

But if you think this is a eulogy
you haven’t seen my nail beds.

I’ve already built too many wind chimes
from covered tailpipes
to lay anyone down that clean,

to write your release
with a pretty pen
to the pitch of your mother’s scream.

The only word
I have to give you
is good-bye.

If the casket is a ladder,


Naomi Shihab Nye - The Grieving Ring

When word of his death arrived
we sat in a circle for days
crying or not crying

long ago in the other country
girls balanced buckets
on their heads

now the old sweet water
rose from the spring
to swallow us

brothers shrank
children grew old
it felt fine to say nothing
about him
or something small

the way he carried
oranges and falafel
in his pockets

the way he was always
slightly mad

what he said to each
the last time
we saw him
hurt the worst

those unwritten letters
banging each head
till it felt bruised

now he would stand at the mirror
knotting his tie
for the rest of so many lives

Naomi Shihab Nye - My Grandmother in the Stars

It is possible we will not meet again
on earth. To think this fills my throat
with dust. Then there is only the sky
tying the universe together.

Just now the neighbor’s horse must be standing
patiently, hoof on stone, waiting for his day
to open. What you think of him,
and the village’s one heroic cow,
is the knowledge I wish to gather.
I bow to your rugged feet,
the moth-eaten scarves that knot your hair.

Where we live in the world
is never one place. Our hearts,
those dogged mirrors, keep flashing us
moons before we are ready for them.
You and I on a roof at sunset,
our two languages adrift,
heart saying, Take this home with you,
never again,
and only memory making us rich.