Georg Heym: The last watch

Pexels-photo-24105

How dark your sleeps are
and your hands so cold.
Are you already so far away
you don't hear me any more?

Under the flickering lights
you are so sad and old,
and your lips are gruesome
clenched stiffly forever.

In the morning the silence will already be here
and maybe in the air
still the rustling of wreaths
and a decaying smell.

But the nights will become
emptier now, year after year,
here where your head lay and your breathing
was always so soft.

    –Georg Heym (1887-1912)

Letzte Wache

Wie dunkel sind deine Schläfen
und deine Hände so schwer,
bist du schon weit von dannen und hörst mich nicht mehr?

Unter dem flackenden Lichte
bist du so traurig und alt,
und deine Lippe sind grausam
in ewiger Starre gekrallt.

Morgen schon ist hier das Schweigen
und vieilleicht in der Luft
noch das Rascheln der Kränze
und ein verwesender Duft.

Aber die Nächte werden
leerer nun, Jahr um Jahr,
hier, wo dein Haupt lag und leise
immer dein Atem war.


Message from a dead father to his child

Kalle-Gustafsson-Flickr

Before long I will leave this earth. I am trying to stay calm, to talk with you for the first and last time on this paper. I fear you can’t imagine what it’s like, alas. To face this moment and be unable to see you once, to hug you once, to kiss you once ... I am heartbroken. My regret is unending. 

  –Huang Wen-kung 黃溫恭, a political prisoner condemned to execution in 1950s Taiwan, writing to his unborn child.


Shmu'el HaNagid: On the death of his son, Jacob

ChrisHConnelly-flickr

Before me the world is a binding seal,
and my home to me is a prison, my son.
After your death I'll go in fear
no more of Time-- for my terror has come.

  --By Shmu'el HaNagid, also known as Samuel ibn Naghrilla (993-after 1056) from The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain 950-1492, edited and translated by Peter Cole (2007). Cole is a poet himself and has won the MacArthur award, among many others.


Helen Keller: We bereaved are not alone

Lars-Vaular-Flickr-Fres

We bereaved are not alone.We belong to the largest company in all the world, the company of those who have known suffering.
When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne, let us think of the great family of the heavy hearted into which our grief has given us entrance, and inevitably, we will feel about us their arms, their sympathy, their understanding.

Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world.So long as you can sweeten another's pain, life is not in vain.

    --Helen Keller (1880-1968) in Peace at Eventide (1929)


Áine ní Ghlinn: The warmth of the kitchen is cold

Kulicki-flickr

In the kitchen

For Robbie

I hear the hollow shovel, bleak
against the laughter of the sun
Sun, where shall I go now?
The warmth of the kitchen is cold.

I sense the hand once held in mine
the train discarded in the corner
Train, where will you go now?
The cold of the kitchen is bare.

I hear the gentle laughter, soft
against the silence of the wind
Wind, take me with you now
The silence of the kitchen is forever.

  --Áine ní Ghlinn (1955- ) in Sruth na Maoile: Modern Gaelic Poetry From Scotland and Ireland (1993)

Sa Chistin

I gCuimhne Robbie

Cloisim an tsluasaid lom
meascaithe le gáire na gréine
A ghrian, cá raghad anois?
Tá teas na cistine fuar.

Braithim an lámh a bhí im láimh
an traein caite sa chúinne
A traein, cá raghair anois?
Tá fuacht na cistine lom.

Cloisim an gáire séimh
meascaithe le ciúnas na gaoithe
A ghaoth, beir leat anois mé
Tá tost na cistine buan.


Kübler-Ross: The reality is that you will grieve forever

LetIdeasCompeteFlickr

The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not "get over" the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.

  --Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004), with David Kessler (1959- ). If you know the source of this quotation, could you send it to me?


From One Second to the Next: A shooting star

Snowpeak-JohnFowler-Flickr

I would like to think that my Dad is somewhere in the universe. I go outside at night and sit on my balcony when I'm really upset. I stare at the sky, and whenever I'm super upset, I always see... a shooting star. And I like to think that that's my way... my Dad's way... of trying to communicate with me. I felt that my Dad would not have wanted me to be mad at him for the rest of my life... my Dad would have forgiven him. I knew that, and he would want me to try and move on, and forgive him, and even... get to know him.

  --Megan O'Dell, remembering her father, a scientist, who was killed together with a colleague by a young man who was texting as he drove. She later befriended the devastated man, and they both appear in "From One Second to the Next," a public service documentary about deaths caused by drivers who were texting, made by famous film director Werner Herzog. You can see the movie online.


Plutarch: We should not be ungrateful for what was given

Mike-Baird-Flickr

The messenger you sent to report the death of our little child seems to have missed me on the way as he travelled to Athens; but when I reached Tanagra I learned of it...

Only, my dear wife, in your emotion keep me as well as yourself within bounds....I know what great satisfaction lay in this, that after four sons the longed-for daughter was born.... Our affection for children so young has, furthermore, a poignancy all its own: the delight it gives is quite pure and free from all anger or reproach. She had herself, moreover, a surprising gift of mildness and good temper, and her way of responding to friendship and of bestowing favours gave us pleasure while it afforded an insight into her kindness.... But I do not see, my dear wife, why these things and the like, after delighting us while she lived, should now distress and dismay us as we take thought of them. Rather I fear on the contrary that while we banish painful thoughts we may banish memory as well...But rather, just as she was herself the most delightful thing in the world to embrace, to see, to hear, so too must the thought of her live with us and be our companion, bringing with it joy in greater measure, nay in many times greater measure, than it brings sorrow...and we must not sit idle and shut ourselves in, paying for those pleasures with sorrows many times as great.

Try to carry yourself back in your thoughts and return again and again to the time when this little child was not yet born and we had as yet no complaint against Fortune; next, try to link this present time with that, as though our circumstances had again become the same. For, my dear wife, we shall appear to be sorry that our child was ever born, if our conduct leads us to regard the state of things before her birth as preferable to the present. Yet we must not obliterate the intervening two years from our memory; rather, since they afforded us delight and enjoyment of her, we should credit them to the account of pleasure; and we should not consider the small good a great evil, nor, because Fortune did not add what we hoped for, be ungrateful for what was given. For reverent language toward the Deity and a serene and uncomplaining attitude toward Fortune never fail to yield an excellent and pleasant return; while in circumstances like these, he who in greatest measure draws upon his memory of past blessings, and turns his thought toward the bright and radiant part of his life, averting it from the dark and disturbing part, either extinguishes his pain entirely, or by thus combining it with its opposite, renders it slight and faint....

...That she has passed to a state where there is no pain need not be painful to us; for what sorrow can come to us through her, if nothing now can make her grieve? 

...Consider then that the soul, which is imperishable, is affected like a captive bird:...whereas the soul that tarries after its capture but a brief space in the body, before it is set free by higher powers, proceeds to its natural state as though released....

...The laws forbid us to mourn for infants, holding it impiety to mourn for those who have departed to a dispensation and a region too that is better and more divine....

  --Plutarch (ca 46-120), in a letter to his wife Timoxena, after the death of their two-year-old daughter, also named Timoxena. Translator unknown. If you have the original Greek, could you please send it? 



Tegnér: There is no heart to be found in my breast

Debaird-flickr

How long, how endless is each throb of pain!
O my heart, eaten up, bled white!

My heart? There is no heart to be found in my breast,
only an urn with life's ashes.

    --Esaias Tegnér (1782-1846), Swedish poet, in his poem "Mjältsjukan."

Hur lång, hur ändlös är vart pulsslags smärta!
O, mitt förtärda, mitt förblödda hjärta!

Mitt hjärta? I mitt bröst finns intet hjärta,
en urna blott med livets aska i.