Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I feel like I must have had a teacher who pronounced "poem," "poyme," but I can't recall who it would have been.  Nevadians?  Anyone remember this?  Or maybe I'm just fake-remembering it?

Anyway, I recently read two poems/poymes and they resonated with me in different but equally significant ways.  One by an old favorite, and one by the poet laureate of the United States, dontcha know.

Sorrow like a ceaseless rain
  Beats upon my heart.
People twist and scream in pain,--
Dawn will find them still again;
This has neither wax nor wane ,
  Neither stop nor start.

People dress and go to town;
  I sit in my chair.
All my thoughts are slow and brown:
Standing up or sitting down
Little matters, or what gown
  Or what shoes I wear.
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

This poem captures that strange duality of grief--a twisting, screaming, incessant pain that feels sharp but actually clouds and dulls the thinking.  My memory has been so fuzzy since Eliza died it seems like slow brown thoughts are pretty much the only kind my brain can form. 

And also?  From my closet full of adorable shoes carefully stowed in their original boxes and organized by season?  I've been wearing the same two pairs over and over again.  Whatever's closest, most convenient, black or brown, low heel.  There's just no room in my life for those bright reddish orange pumps or the peep toe heels I used to love.  When will I ever have an occasion to wear a gold platform sandal or purple suede loafers or pink kitten heels or rhinestone studded flats? 

You know what kind of footwear is appropriate for a grieving mother?  These ugly brown moccasin-esque loafers that I've never really liked and also a pair of black suede boots, stained with salt.  The other day I pulled out a pair of leopard print flats (to wear to therapy, natch) and it was truly the first time since December that I even thought at all about my footwear, let alone felt any kind of pleasure about it. 

Can I just say for a moment how much I miss being frivolous and superficial?  I used to get such (probably way too much, actually) enjoyment from wearing pretty clothes.  Today as I was getting dressed, an Onion-style headline formed in my head:  Mother of Stillborn Baby Misses Dead Child, Also, Her Waistline.  Which is to say, it sucks to have a postpartum body without a baby to make up for it.  And, however shallow this makes me, I really feel the absence of the simple pleasures I once derived from wearing pretty dresses with cute shoes.  Eliza died and these things just stopped mattering.  I wonder how long it will be before I get that kind of superficial enjoyment back in my life.  Months?  Years?  Ever? 

But even as I mourn the loss of stupid fun stuff, I also know that losing Eliza has made me appreciate other kinds of simple things much more.  A warm, sleepy puppy dog on my lap.  Making David laugh.  An e-mail from a good friend.  A phone call from my mom.  A poem that expresses the very feelings that get caught in my throat.  I always liked these things, but now they are lifelines back to a place I thought I might never get to again. 

And that brings me to the second poem...

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color
–W. S. Merwin

For so long, Eliza's thread has been the color of grief.  Deep and black and scary.  Gray and dull.  Brown and slow.  But that's really unfair because up until December 6th, her color was the color of sunshine and lemonade and daffodils and baby ducks.  Our golden girl, our Baby Duck.

So here I sit.  Contemplating pretty sandals and a life woven with yellow thread...  Oh, I'm still not there yet.  But maybe such possibilities are not lost to me forever.


  1. "Laughter through tears, that's my favourite emotion"
    -Dolly Parton says this in Steele Magnolia's and I have always loved that line

    I appreciate it so much more now. Because there are so many tears, and not so much laughter. But when laughter comes, it is often through tears and it is such a release. It feels so good (even if I feel guilty about it later - but that's a whole other thing).

    Your post made me laugh. And cry. I love the "poyme" thing. Too funny. That made me laugh.

    Both poyme's made me cry. So beautiful, and so true. Thank you for sharing.

    I just bought a new sweater so I wouldn't look like the Mayor of Hagsville forever. But, the sweater is black and loose. It matches my mood, and it hides my muffin-top. Maybe one day I will buy something flattering that isn't black. But, for now I will just be glad that this particular garment isn't made of "moisture wicking material" like the rest of my usual "uniform". Blah...

  2. I always enjoy a good poyme! (I have heard people say the word that way and then also with an emphasis on each syllable like it's two words instead of one) These are beautiful! Thank you for sharing them.

  3. Dear Brooke,
    Do you think it would help your shoes if I wore them until you felt better?

  4. My grandma says it and I repeat it to you often. Is that where it's from?

    There are some things about you that will be forever changed and some things that won't. You know how some people say that those who have a foundation of faith in Jesus will always return? That's like you and shoes. I know you'll find them again. I have faith. :)

  5. Hey sweet Brooke.. this was a post that I needed to read today. Since September I haven't given a flip about anything having to deal with fashion or much less self-maintenance. I can completely relate to thinking about if/when the day will ever come when I love some of my favorite outfits or shoes/boots. I got a pair of red cowboy boots some time ago that were so special to me.. now they sit in their box collecting dust. Maybe the day will come when I crave a moment to put them on again.. I'll be waiting.
    Love and light- Leslie