I carry my loss day after day,
like any grown-up:
on my shoulder, on my hip,
shifting its weight from side to side,
occasionally lifting it atop my head like a woman
carrying goods to market,
sometimes dragging it behind me
by a frayed string.
It’s a bulky package, loss,
but all the grown-ups around me
are staggering to balance
their own awkward burdens. I wish
someone had told me when I was young:
“See those tall people with strained faces?
Their hearts are heavy as hammers
that have fallen hard from distant stars.
That’s loss on their shoulders,
in the space their arms shape, the hollow of their chests.
They’re in mourning
for their mothers, who were brisk and tall
with clear voices. Let’s not even talk
about fathers.
The littlest things will remind them:
candy dishes like their grandmothers’.
Bitten-down lipsticks. Mateless earrings.
Loss, my darling,
a gray word,
the color of a nickel,
too small to buy anything with,
too small to give or to save.”
And if someone had
told me all this — what would I have done?
Gone on playing
or pretending to play, the way children will,
for the sake of the game,
for the sake of having something to carry.