The end of August marks the conclusion of Grief Awareness Month here in Australia. It also means the coming of Spring in the southern hemisphere, a time of joy and hope. Below is a prose poem I wrote to acknowledge this period. I dedicate this writing to those close to me who have suffered grief and loss in their lives. Thanks to my fellow writers at the Open Genre Writing Group at the NSW Writers’ Centre for their feedback and input into this piece.
He drew his last breath at midnight. It was early spring.
By morning he was icy cold.
The empty highchair a raw reminder of his leaving.
Pureed carrot still smeared on the plastic tray.
In the blur of days that followed friends and neighbours cleaned, put flowers round the house, left food at the front door.
The grieving mother’s sister took time off work to help with the funeral arrangements.
And to choose the plot to bury the child.
Under a paperbark tree. Sheltered from the weather. As if that mattered now.
The sisters embraced at the site where his little body would lie.
The pock of a golf ball being hit on the course next door anchored them in their despair.
A complaining crow sounded a mournful cry.
The funeral briefly relieved their sorrow; the ceremony and formality of it oddly comforting.
The sister had suffered that loss too; her baby also dying in her sleep.
Now buried with its grandmother. Surrounded by strangers.
Same pointy chin. Same frown. A union under the quiet earth.
She had held her and held her until the policewoman gently said we have to take her now.
They zipped her up in a small blue bag and drove her away in the gathering dark, lights flashing and siren off.
The hardest thing she said was removing her dew soaked clothes from the washing line the next day.
I didn’t know he was leaving.
I thought he was coming back to make amends, to start anew.
After a ten day absence I prepared our reunion with lighted candles and fresh flowers.
The house held the hushed anticipation of a wedding, a celebration.
But he returned to say that he wasn’t coming back. That after eight years he couldn’t do it anymore.
He closed the front door quietly behind him, as if not to disturb me any further.
He only took his guitar.
I watched him go, his shoulders hunched, and saw that he had lost weight.
After he left, the wedding photos in the lounge room pierced my eyes. I turned them around to face the wall.
The house dissolved around me, as if it was grieving too.
I ate frozen peas for the first few days.
I forgot to shop, to cook and clean, and made a nest on the lounge room floor to sleep in.
This is where I received worried friends who came with hugs, sad eyes and food.
After a month I moved back into the bed. Our bed.
He had come for all his possessions by then. But left the stuffed giraffe from his childhood.
The house became darker, solemn. But for the dust motes dancing in a splinter of light through a part in the curtains.
I rang a cleaner and sat in the bath from lunchtime until after the sun went down, the water cold.