The Thing Is – September 23 2019

The Thing Is – September 23 2019

The Thing Is

Ellen Bass

to love life, to love it even

when you have no stomach for it

and everything you’ve held dear

crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,

your throat filled with the silt of it.

When grief sits with you, its tropical heat

thickening the air, heavy as water

more fit for gills than lungs;

when grief weights you like your own flesh

only more of it, an obesity of grief,

you think How can a body withstand this?

Then you hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face,

no charming smile, no violet eyes,

and you say, yes, I will take you

I will love you, again.

For all of us who might think that if we are floored by our grief it indicates we are doing something wrong, that we are not being truly spiritual, that God has turned against us or that now it is time for us to turn against God; for all of us who sometimes have the truly human experience of loss and heartache and despair feels as if it will never leave – in other words, for all of us who live in these bodies – there are poets and writers and philosophers who offer us encouragement to step forward once again into life; who can remind us that the way out is the way through, and the way through is to love.

Today I will imagine a happiness that is large enough to encompass even my most wretched sadness.

The Flatiron Building, from Madison Sq. Park, NYC