"Grievers": a poem by Julia Copus

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At length we learned what it meant to “come to” grief.
As if grief lay in wait for us all along,
a barricade or boulder in the road.
What was it pulled us to it – led as we were
to its cold, stone smell, its granite skin?
We knew it by the way the light had shrunk
to a frayed corona; slowly, we understood
there was nothing to do but swallow it whole
and inch our way forward again. But to find we were able –
that was the miracle. It was as if the soul,
which has no definite shape, consisted simply
of a flexible cell wall, for the journey taught us
that in the face of grief the soul distorts
and forms a seal around the loss.
The bits we can’t absorb we carry in us,
a lumpish residue. It is truly a wonder
we manage to move at all; let alone
as freely as this, with the ease at times
of our old and lighter selves. And when I say we . . .
Look out into the street – we are everywhere:
on bikes, at bus stops, among the crowds
of those who have not happened yet on grief.
We steady our own like an egg in the dip of a spoon,
as far as the dark of the hallway, the closing door.
Some are there now, in the measling light
that gathers behind doors. We are catching our breath,
certain we won’t be joining you again,
confounding ourselves at the last because we do.

This article appears in the 26 August 2013 issue of the New Statesman, How the dream died