There is a ghost of sorrow who lives in my heart. It wakes; it keeps me awake; it squeezes against my chest. Sometimes it leaks from my eyes when I am driving as if lured by a ribbon of song or the curve of the road as it turns inland. A cousin of grief or a pupil of regret-nor yet either—it wends seaward like smoke, unstitching every memory: how your braids snagged in our mother's hands, how piles of ruined clothes obscured the basement light. Tell me, are we still living in that old house? To think how all those days my heart rang and it rang and I never responded.
This poem is one of a series of 13-line “postcard” sonnets I am gathering in a project called #13×13.
Later note (August 2022) The images are taken from a narrow sketch I made in mid-March with poured inks, a broken ink stick and a hospital band titled “How when they took the port out my blood pooled on the floor.” After several weeks of what had seemed distressing heart-related symptoms, in late February I’d finally gone to the emergency room to have my heart checked. I was kept for the entire day and into the night, twice given an EKG, put through a number of blood tests and then a CT scan for blood clots. No physically alarming indicators were discovered; it thus became clear that I, like virtually everyone who examined me, was suffering from overwork, family trials and mental distress as we moved into the second year of COVID-related adjustments to our work and social lives. In what seemed at once mess and metaphor, when the attending resident removed the port from my arm, blood filled the sleeve of my shirt and puddled on the floor. He was more flustered than I–I’d been trying to be prepared for far more than that to go wrong. Both poem and imagery emerged from a renewed sense of how close death is and can be, and how important it is to make what you have to make while you can. I had put off much of my own making for nearly two years as I completed a demanding administrative post; my heart symptoms, such as they were, told me that I needed to stop sidelining my own relationships and creative projects.
One thought on “Ghost of sorrow”
We’re all falling apart as the world and the planet fall apart with us. A friend went to the hospital doubled over with abdominal pain. They found nothing. I developed pains everywhere, couldn’t walk. They found nothing. A neighbour of mine, an ER doctor, says that 75% of apparent cardiac cases since the pandemic have been panic attacks. We have all become Freudian patients, hysterics who repress the fact that it’s too much, and we’re sad, and furious, but in this hard, hard world, we don’t dare say so for fear of being called weak, and because we feel as if we’re holding the ceiling in place with our hands and arms every day, or we are the heroes with slim fingers in the holes of dams, and if we let go… And yet it is too much. For the strongest of us, even. Be well, friend.