Matthew Dickman – Grief

Matthew Dickman

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
you must count yourself lucky.
You must offer her what’s left
of your dinner, the book you were trying to finish
you must put aside,
and make her a place to sit at the foot of your bed,
her eyes moving from the clock
to the television and back again.
I am not afraid. She has been here before
and now I can recognize her gait
as she approaches the house.
Some nights, when I know she’s coming,
I unlock the door, lie down on my back,
and count her steps
from the street to the porch.
Tonight she brings a pencil and a ream of paper,
tells me to write down
everyone I have ever known,
and we separate them between the living and the dead
so she can pick each name at random.
I play her favorite Willie Nelson album
because she misses Texas
but I don’t ask why.
She hums a little,
the way my brother does when he gardens.
We sit for an hour
while she tells me how unreasonable I’ve been,
crying in the checkout line,
refusing to eat, refusing to shower,
all the smoking and all the drinking.
Eventually she puts one of her heavy
purple arms around me, leans
her head against mine,
and all of a sudden things are feeling romantic.
So I tell her,
things are feeling romantic.
She pulls another name, this time
from the dead,
and turns to me in that way that parents do
so you feel embarrassed or ashamed of something.
Romantic? she says,
reading the name out loud, slowly,
so I am aware of each syllable, each vowel
wrapping around the bones like new muscle,
the sound of that person’s body
and how reckless it is,
how careless that his name is in one pile and not the other.


oh man don’t I know the sweet brother of mine, grief. A few days ago, when I was in the desert he came with all of his glory, you know the same way Rilke would say “Every angel is terror” and terror he was, flowers were dying, sunshine was annoying, smiles were mockery, love making was burden, joy was far, and love birds were caged – I don’t know how he does it but sometimes my boy is a real buzz kill… Not to say that every time he comes, it’s all fire and madness, sometime he is tired and shows up in a tremble of your eye, sometimes he’s an artist and he shows up in the blues, you know how it is, melancholia has many chapters! but sometimes, my boy is a real wild card, and that day he was. And the days he’s a wild fire are to be cherished!  The destruction and fire he causes shakes up so much in me that, when once I’m down moaning and crying about his doings, I feel so much lighter, and then I rise to kiss the suns mouth … and he’s family, you know, I may get bummed at him, get annoyed, but never gonna say no to him, he is my soul brother he’s welcome to this house I call self anytime! Sometimes, I spend a lot of my time with him, and sometimes I just let him in and go on to my own business and I ignore him, because sometimes I’ve got shit to do, bills to pay, light bulbs to fix, friends to help…

Anyway, that day I gave my time to him, and we looked at my ego, we looked at hard and long… and boy o boy, when we kissed goodbye at Sunrise, I felt like the man who’s seeing the first sunrise after being locked in for long. So much expectation for nothing, so much ideas of self to carry, while all I needed was to just ride the time…and I know this, but forgetting is crucial to our survival, so I forget… oh well.. learning… and..relearning… and being … and whiskey…these are always good for you!

So when your lover, your inner brother, sister, your child, you inner animal; grief comes – don’t give up on them easily, they are challenging, but they know things about you that very few outsiders can ever know, they carry reports from where sprit meets the bone! I’m staying at a friend’s house these days, and he read me a poem from Matthew Dickman, he read another one, but then when I was reading his other poems to see what I want to send you, his gorilla kicked me out of my path and I fell on this poem!

Happy Friday, Y’all!

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