I do this as often as I can, because it’s really important, there’s an urgent need for your type, they tell me. It’s about giving, and although it’s not always comfortable, and I have to wade through a shock of documents so we’re all sure this is right, it’s worth it. It makes me feel useful, valuable, a red-blooded citizen contributing to the common good, helping others who might not survive without community connections. We all have unexpected moments of distress when it matters—a lot— whether some stranger already came and gave, their arm stretched out and their life-giving gift, flowing, flowing through the system to our need. It’s really not so hard. You have to register, and there are personal questions to make certain you aren’t disqualified. And certainly, you have to show up. People explain the process to you. You get your own special, private space. There are buttons and beeps, and then you’ve given what you have to give, and you leave, proudly sporting your sticker: “I Voted Today.”
You are nineteen. You have nine lives, but you don’t know that yet. I am fifty-nine. I know about your other lives, but not all of them, because some are still ahead of me. You are nineteen, and your heart has shattered into utter, suffocating silence. Rooms full of people who care about you, but whom you strongly suspect would hand you simplistic formulas for healing— maxims and recipes that would only make the searing sear more— these people are company, a comfort, and an overlying bandage, but not truly to be trusted. You are lashed and lonely, so lonely, a willow in an empty canyon, wondering where the water went, pushing back the screaming why, because there really isn’t any answer— but mostly not daring to ask. Is there any point for the willow to complain or fuss or question why the farmer redirected the cool, clear brook somewhere else? Is there any point in protesting the subtle but unmistakable shaming that comes from not fitting someone else’s narrative, from having dared to spread your timid branches in a manner organic for you but disruptive for them? What could a willow do anyway? So, your roots bend now, searching the emptiness, and yearning, and you pretend. You go on. You will have nine lives at least. You do not know that yet. But I know, and I see you and your hidden, arid roots and I reach back across decades, and I water you with nine thousand loving tears.
Shoveling sorrow is like shoveling snow: you have to be strategic. Don’t waste strength trying to make it all look tidy. Life’s mutts and muddy boots will surely ruin that work. Instead, shift your sorrow snow just enough so it won’t trap you. You have to think about how to bend to pick it up and where you’ll put it, for it’s wet and heavy and exhausting. And after the crusty glitter-- the glamour of feeling-- has fled, you needn’t pretend that it’s pretty. You have to be careful towards yourself, not to slip on ice so slick with melting that you’re mashed against your own story. Mind all melting. And wear mittens, because even powder softness can block your blood supply. You have to be careful towards yourself. Every year people die of heart attacks while shoveling snow or sorrow.
Poetry ©2021 Christine Du Bois
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