the animal eats
the animal eats
These days

These days

A meditation, I suppose, on grief. Plus I read you two poems and also a third one that I wrote last month, but it's still a work in progress. Just like the rest of us.

All grief is the same grief.

Kris said this to me once. We were naked and unafraid, sharing a communal bath, getting right to the heart of it.

It may have been the hot water talking but I felt it in my bones. I felt it in my blood and in the cells of my body, yes. The particular way it feels to feel grief tends to feel the same.

This is not true of love, or friendship. It may be true of hunger.

Each big love of my life—and I've been blessed or cursed, depending on how I look at it from one day to the next, to have three or four—has been its own wild animal.

I think it's strange and absurd that we only have one word for friendship, despite its many types and textures. I have more different flavors of friend in my life than there can possibly be types of snow.

Show me the language that can hold all my friends. I'd like to write my little poems in it.

But like Kris—a person for whom the only word I have is friend, though they are more of a twin sacred mirror flame mother to my heart and soul, born moments before me on a cosmic scale and a few months behind on the earth's—said to me, steeped alongside me in screaming hot water helping our skin melt away, all grief is the same grief.

Eventually, we all find it. We meet each other in it. We may not be able to hear one another over the sound of so much sobbing, but we're there. We showed up to ache for what's been lost, in whatever way we ache the deepest. This is what grief is.

Love persisting.
Love unanswered.
Loss without landing.
Absence made present.

It is a room we enter without wanting, and we have to stay a while. We have to stay a while to let the ache move through. If we don't, if we try to leave too soon, the ache just sits there waiting, so when you come back, because you will, it will be there waiting still. And now you have twice the aching.

This is why funerals. Why mourning matters. Why altars. Why candles. Why sitting in grief beside the body can help us want to keep living. We may not want grief but we need it. To metabolize the ache and make space for the loss.

All that feeling, you know, it makes you bigger. Grief makes you big enough to survive it.

Yet here we are, nearly two years into a death parade, the numbness only growing. We have become so used to death, because we've had to. No one will let us mourn it. No one will let us heal. The world has decided we'll live this way—in hardened disregard for the suffering of others. Because the grief of it might shut us down for days, or maybe forever.

All this talk of the global supply chain, the so-called labor shortage—we've lost a million lives in this country alone. Of course the world's slowed down. If we were allowed to grieve, to feel the weight of all this loss, we'd burn this mother fucker to the ground.

And then we'd build something different.

We'd reckon with the magnitude of what's been done here, how cruel our systems are. How disposable our lives. We'd weep and we'd reason and tell ourselves fairy tales, do our fair share of magical thinking—maybe we can fix this—and then? When the fantasy crumbles at last, we'd rage and rage and rage.

I think we need to grieve.
I know I will continue to.

When my small friend died, I fell to pieces. Not just because she was perfect, and the first thing I got right. Not just because loving her was the easiest thing I've ever done, and love might never be that easy again. But because we're surrounded by death and dying, and because in ten days it will be a year since my baby cousin died, the way he knew he would, unable to breathe. Because he couldn't get the care he needed, because hospitals were overrun by people dying unable to breathe. Because a month after that will be 10 years since my tia Perla, the kindest soul some god saw fit to send into my bloodline, died. And another month after that will be three years since my grandfather, an exuberant, vain, and loving man—whose love had fists in his younger days, who was born into a tribe whose language even now is being forgotten forever, whose own loss I know so little of—left us holding what's left of our love for him, a complicated truth.

This is a season of grief, in a year of grief, in a pandemic of grief unpermissed.

If nothing else, let this be permission.
Feel everything you can.

Here now. Have some poem.

by Sally Haertl

I need so much
These days filled with nothing

To cut a hunk of bread
And leave it untouched on the table

To look at me in a mirror

And wander the apartment
Picking up and putting down things

The cat falls in and out of sleep
Traffic sounds steady

I do not need anything

How to Not Be a Perfectionist
by Molly Brodak

People are vivid
and small
and don’t live
very long—

Okay. Go slow today. Or not. Go exactly as you’ve got to.

the animal eats
the animal eats
a bi-weekly reading of a beloved poem or excerpt from my bedside table, accompanied by a few stray thoughts and, on occasion, work in progress.
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Kristin Lueke