2018 Spring Poetry Winner “Study of Grief” by Brook J. Sadler Ph.D

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Study of Grief

(I)
A rip.
A block of wood axe-split.
A heavy pelt of rain.
The sentence that strikes,

then makes itself a constant refrain:
He is dead.
Or, He is gone.
I know these lines by heart.

But new to me is this fresh, rude thought:
This is it.
The peak of my life is past.
There is left only the decline

into old age.
I stand before a bush of wild
roses, small and steeped in pink,
deep ruby pink like well-kept secrets,

like small hearts flush with blood.
They bloom, a hundred promises
along this mountain trail.

(II)

It is late, and I cannot
keep my eyes open,
but I do not want to
go to bed because I know
I will lie down
and begin to weep.

Even with my back turned,
even in my sleep,
long purple shadows
seep from the mountains.

(III)

A single rose petal
falls to the table.

Along its rim
encroaches brown—

like a paper burned
at the edges.

I am advised to grieve
the passing of my youthful

promise, the dreams
that did not come true.

It seems an arduous
assignment: to grieve

my self.
But I can feel the relief

it would bring, the relief
that comes at the end

of grief—the soft and quiet
sigh, the shearing off

of that striving self,
my striving self.

I ask and ask again,
How do I know

that grieving isn’t just
capitulating, giving up?

In the morning,
the mountains are pink,

their contours a hazy blur.
By afternoon, they are brown

and etched with ridgelines
in the sun. They resemble

the dark umber of burnt paper
or the delicate border

of a decaying rose petal.
My life is burning

toward the center.
I fear the white space

will too soon disappear.

(IV)

White roses unhanded themselves
slowly
over many days
in a small vase
on my kitchen table.

The petals loosened—
each silken swatch
slackened—
pried open

by fingers of light—
by light alone—
until

with a silent sigh
they completely gave up

their shape.

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