Cavafy: That dead café where they used to go together

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...When he went to the café that evening—
he happened to have some vital business there—
to that same café where they used to go together,
it was a knife in his heart,
that dead café where they used to go together.

Constantine Cavafy (1863–1933), Greek from Alexandria, Egypt. Poem "Lovely White Flowers" (Ωραία λουλούδια και άσπρα ως ταίριαζαν πολύ) from C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems (1975), translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

Όταν το βράδυ επήγεν — έτυχε μια δουλειά,
μια ανάγκη του ψωμιού του — στο καφενείον όπου
επήγαιναν μαζύ: — μαχαίρι στην καρδιά του
το μαύρο καφενείο — όπου επήγαιναν μαζύ.

 

Photo by Kimmo Räisänen


In the midst of life we are in death

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In the midst of life we are in death 
of whom may we seek for succour,
but of thee, O Lord,
who for our sins
art justly displeased?

Yet, O Lord God most holy,
O Lord most mighty,
O holy and most merciful Saviour,
deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death.

An anonymous Latin poem from Gregorian chant, later in The Book of Common Prayer. The English version seems to be by Thomas Cranmer (1489–1556)

Media vita in morte sumus
quem quaerimus adjutorem
nisi te, Domine,
qui pro peccatis nostris
juste irasceris?

Sancte Deus,
sancte fortis,
sancte et misericors Salvator:
amarae morti ne tradas nos.
 
 

Photo by David Berry on Flickr

Vonnegut: The Tralfamadorian view of death

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The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral....It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. When a Tralfamadorian sees a corpse, all he thinks is that the dead person is in a bad condition in that particular moment, but that same person is just fine in plenty of other moments.

The narrator in Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007)

 

Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay


Akhmatova: And the stone word fell on my still-living breast

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Verdict

And the stone word fell
On my still-living breast.
Never mind, I was ready.
I will manage somehow.

Today I have so much to do:
I must kill memory once and for all,
I must turn my soul to stone,
I must learn to live again—

Unless . . . Summer's ardent rustling
Is like a festival outside my window.
For a long time I've foreseen this
Brilliant day, deserted house.

Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966), The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, translated by Judith Hemschemeyer. Zephyr Press.

Приговор (1939)

И упало каменное слово
На мою еще живую грудь.
Ничего, ведь я была готова,
Справлюсь с этим как-нибудь.

У меня сегодня много дела:
Надо память до конца убить,
Надо, чтоб душа окаменела,
Надо снова научиться жить.

А не то... Горячий шелест лета,
Словно праздник за моим окном.
Я давно предчувствовала этот
Светлый день и опустелый дом.


Michelle Leatherby: Please endorse me on LinkedIn for "Good at Grieving"

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During my time at your company, I have grown tremendously. Recently, I developed perhaps my greatest professional strength: grieving in a way that isn’t super inconvenient to others. When I returned to work after The Event (see how I used “The Event” so I didn’t force you to think about my trauma in detail?), my new skillset blossomed. It is with the utmost humility that I request your endorsement of the followings skills:

Got dressed.

Returned after just 3 bereavement and 2 personal days despite everyone in my family taking more time and feeling like a big giant meanie mean.

Endured a pre-meeting sympathy hug.

Only cried at work twice, and when no one was looking.

Brought back The Event leftovers, but referred to them as “desserts from home” so others didn’t have to think about my misfortune.

Stopped drinking office coffee due to a constant heightened state of anxiety following The Event.

Responded “good!” when a coworker asked me how I’m doing.

Responded “good!” when a different coworker asked me how I’m doing, and then when they clarified “no, but how are you really doing?” gave them enough information to make them feel important but not enough to actually give insight into the deep, emotionally shattering anguish I experience on a daily basis.

Wore a color!

Only listened to one Bon Iver album too loud.

Ate more than a handful of almonds and less than an entire cake for lunch.

Channeled personal stress into work stress, creating the most perfect and organized Excel spreadsheet of all time.

Said “totally” in response to a coworker deeming the loss of an email attachment as “traumatic.”

Showed up.

Thanked a coworker for the flowers placed on my desk the day of The Event that were dead by the time I arrived back at work, reminding me of The Event.

Smiled and sang happy birthday to a work acquaintance despite the more-present-than-ever feeling that life is fleeting and should be spent with those whom you love most.

Bathed.

Did not throw every stapler, computer, and office chair when a coworker asked via g-chat “So, things getting back to normal now?”

Dissociated at the water cooler less than 10 times.

Pretended to relate to a manager’s bad day, which was caused by a soggy sandwich.

Refrained from divulging sad weekend plans that included wine consumed alone and The Event-related paperwork.

Breathed.

When coworkers said “I can’t imagine,” resisted responding “Well, then let me paint you a picture” and then launching into an overwrought description of my trauma.

Breathed.

Abstained from screaming in the face of every person older than the one I lost in The Event, asking why they deserve to live longer.

Breathed.

Avoided confiscating the computer of anyone who sent sympathy via email and insinuated that The Event was God’s Plan™.

Breathed.

Did not get in my car during my lunch break, turn on the ignition, crank the radio as loud as possible, scream with as much lung power as an entire high school band wind section, and drive straight into the nearest body of water.

Breathed.

Kept going.

Michelle Leatherby
on Twitter @MichelleLoserby

Thanks to McSweeney's, which published this piece on 5 October 2018


Photo credit: Canon EOS 70d at MaxPixel


Emily Dickinson: Her final summer

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Her final summer was it,
and yet we guessed it not;
if tenderer industriousness
pervaded her, we thought

a further force of life
developed from within,—
when Death lit all the shortness up,
and made the hurry plain.

We wondered at our blindness,—
when nothing was to see
but her Carrara guide-post,—
at our stupidity,

when, duller than our dullness,
the busy darling lay,
so busy was she, finishing,
so leisurely were we!

    --Emily Dickinson  (1830-1886) 


Nancy Byrd Turner: Death is only an old door

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Death is only an old door
set in a garden wall.
On quiet hinges it gives at dusk,
when the thrushes call.

Along the lintel are green leaves,
beyond, the light lies still;
Very weary and willing feet
go over that sill.

There is nothing to trouble any heart,
nothing to hurt at all.
Death is only an old door
in a garden wall.

  --Nancy Byrd Turner (1880-1971)


Helen Keller: We bereaved are not alone

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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

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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.