Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Prose Poem - "The Dead" by Billy Collins and "Where He Lay" by Sue Anderson

Poetry and survivor memoirs are what I have been reading lately.  I've finished How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry by Edward Hirsch and Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt.  I am currently reading The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing edited by Kevin Young.

Reading poems by fellow grievers is apropos for this month - the death anniversary month.  A jarring yet accurate description of March where the hindsight clock ticks away - for example, on this day three years ago, Josh was alive and unbeknownst to us and maybe even himself, would only be so for 7 more days.  This is where REGRET kicks in with her constant monologue of "if onlys" and "what ifs".

"If only" I had asked this or done that or said this or noticed that - maybe he would be alive.  Or "what if" we had decided to forgo the disciplinary hearing or "what if" I had woken up that night - would he be here now?  Nagging questions buzz around my head like an annoying, relentless mosquito.   Irrelevant questions for a past deed that won't let me go or I won't let go - I am not sure which.

Back to poetry.  Prose poems are most accessible to me - those which tell a story "preserving poetic qualities such as heightened imagery and emotional effects" (Wikipedia).  I simply wrote "wow" in the margin of this one.

The Dead
by Billy Collins 
The dead are always looking down on us, they say,
while we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass-bottom boats of heaven as they row themselves slowly through eternity. 
They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a warm afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them, 
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.
I've read a number of poems that speak to the funeral service and final resting place.  My subconscious must have been ruminating while asleep because when I woke up this morning, certain words and phrases were stuck, begging to be written down.

Where He Lay
Sue Anderson 
Traveling here, after an hour's hard work,
my voice breaking while telling my cycle class of your death and our fundraiser in one week's time, so that other kids do not die like you did. 
So much work on the Beltway; controlled confusion,
but as long as everyone stays in their skinny lanes, all OK. 
Where is everyone going?
This bright, blue Saturday morning? 
To places not like me. 
Driving down Braddock road,
the budding bare trees wave hello and ask,
"Going on your weekly visit, mom?"
Behind cars with Robinson Honor Roll and Virginia Tech and I Love My Dog stickers.
Where are they going? 
This bright, blue, crisp Saturday morning?
To places not like me.  
I pull up and the park is bare,
because twice yearly, they clear out all flowers, old and new. I guess if they didn't some would stay for years, and get ratty, detracting from the serene beauty.  
A red tent is set up in the distance with chairs.
So I know that someone has recently died 
and if that person was loved,
like Josh, fresh grief is consuming others somewhere. 
Where he lay, entombed in Mother Earth's womb forever,
where luckily there is no claustrophobia,
because the dead are unaware.  
Surrounded by fellow dead 
like poor 2-year old Amber,
who died the year Josh was born,
so it has been 20 years now and her grave shows it. 
No one comes to visit her,
so Mother Earth has not only enclosed her body,
but is consuming her marker. 
"That will never be Josh" my today voice says
but who knows where I will be in 20 years?  
Where he lay, frozen in time, 
by a fatal deed done in the early morning of 3-18-09,
while the house was quiet and I was sleeping,
a virgin, innocent, naive sleep. 
Where he lay, in a silken pincushion,
but where is the soul?  Gone? Still here? Hovering?
Is there a welcome party for other tragic losses
like a "Hospitality Club" for the dead? 
Help for the displaced soul to acclimate to new digs?
And once the dust settles, does Josh glide over
(for how do souls move?) and befriends? 
I envision him with a posse of other youngsters,
tragically pulled from this life to his,
by accident, illness, violence including his - by self.
Chilling, hanging out like kids do.   
But wistful...wishing....longing.....
to be be be HERE;
dealing with all the crap that our youth have to deal with,
but knowing that as long as one is alive,
there is hope for a better moment, hour, day, week, 
month, year or future.  Experiences, growth, change, maturity, love, life. 
Because he now knows that when you're dead, all that is gone.  Poof.  Done.  Over.  Kapputz.  Gonzo.  Sayonara.  Adios.  Au revoir.  C'est fini.

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