Today was Emmett Ever’s due date. This has been a complicated (sorrowful, cathartic, confusing) time for us. I wanted to mark this day for her, but I don’t feel ready to write about any of it yet.
I’ve been sitting for awhile with the cherry box of her things (her small urn, the bowl of stones and shells collected for her, photos, the bag of lavender given to us by a friend so that her box would always smell sweet and healing) and I thought that, instead, I might offer a few of the pieces friends chose to share at her blessing. I’m leaving so much out. I’m not including any of the letters written directly to her – by us, or by friends and family – as those feel like they belong only to Emmett. Only one of these selections (the last, “Elegy for Emmett”) was written for her. Still, each one speaks to the love our little community feels for her, to the hope that she offered, to the things she had to teach.
We will carry you with us, little mermaid girl. You are loved with no end, and no measure.
We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. * Judith Butler, Undoing Gender
And if anyone had said this was the price I would have agreed to pay it. That surprises me; that with the hurt and the mess comes a shaft of recognition. It was worth it. Love is worth it. * Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body
From the complications of loving you
I think there is no end or return.
No answer, no coming out of it.
Which is the only way to love, isn’t it?
This isn’t a playground, this
earth, our heaven, for a while.
Therefore I have given precedence
to all my sudden, sullen, dark moods
that hold you in the center of my world.
And I say to my body: grow thinner still.
And I say to my fingers, type me a pretty song.
And I say to my heart: rave on. * Mary Oliver, “A Pretty Song”
To think of the sea
is to hear in the sound of trees
the sound of the sea’s work,
the wave’s labor to change
the shore, not for the shore’s sake, nor the wave’s,
certainly not for me,
hundreds of miles from sea,
unless you count
my memory, my traverse
of sea one way to here.
But I owe a human story,
whose very telling
The characters survive through the telling,
the teller survives
by his telling; by his voice
brinking silence does he survive.
But, no one
can tell without cease
story, and so we
Yet behind the sound
of trees is another
sound. Sometimes, lying
awake, or standing
like this in the yard, I hear it. It
ties our human telling
to its course
by momentum, and ours
is merely part
of its unbroken
stream, the human
and otherwise simultaneously
told. The past
doesn’t fall away, the past
joins the greater
telling, and is.
At times its theme seems
murky, other times clear. Always,
death is a phrase, but just
a phrase, since nothing is ever
lost, and lives
are fulfilled by subsequence.
Listen, you can hear it: indescribable,
neither grief nor joy, neither mine nor yours….
But I’ll not widow the world.
I’ll tell my human
tale, tell it against
the current of that vaster, that
I’ll measure time by losses and destructions.
Because the world
is so rich in detail, all of it so frail;
because all I love is imperfect;
because my memory’s flaw
isn’t in retention but organization;
because no one asked. * Li-Young Lee, “Furious Versions”
Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before,
Without the sense of that which I forbore –
Thy touch upon the palm. The widest land
Doom takes to part us, leaves thy heart in mine
With pulses that beat double. What I do
And what I dream include thee, as the wine
Must taste of its own grapes. And when I sue
God for myself, He hears that name of thine,
And sees within my eyes the tears of two. * Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Sonnets from the Portuguese, VI”
I am not sure I know when mourning is successful, or when on has fully mourned another human being….Perhaps one mourns when one accepts that by the loss one undergoes one will be changed, possibly forever. Perhaps mourning has to do with agreeing to undergo a transformation (perhaps one should say submitting to a transformation) the full result of which one cannot know in advance. There is losing, as we know, but there is also the transformative effect of loss, and this latter cannot be charted or planned. * Judith Butler, Precarious Life
Clarissa had a theory in those days – they had heaps of theories, always theories, as young people have. It was to explain the feeling they had of dissatisfaction; not knowing people; not being known. For how could they know each other? You met every day; then not for six months, or years. It was unsatisfactory, they agreed, how little one knew people. But she said, sitting on the bus going up Shaftesbury Avenue, she felt herself everywhere; not ‘here, here, here’; and she tapped the back of the seat; but everywhere. She waved her hand, going up Shaftesbury Avenue. She was all that. So that to know her, or any one, one must seek out the people who completed them….It ended in a transcendental theory which allowed her to believe, or say that she believed (for all her scepticism), that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places, after death. * Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
This is a poem of welcome.
Your presence says yes
this world is marked by suffering;
yes, and measured by compassion that will answer it.
You say, loss does not preclude love
nor pain, peace.
You are always the right time for these things to begin. * E.B., “Elegy for Emmett”