Death comes for us all, we know this. Knowing and understanding, I am learning as I age, are two completely different beasts. We know, from birth we know, that eventually all things must pass, transform into something new. What we don’t understand, is the impact this passing will have when it finally reaches us. Frozen fingers under the backs of shirttails, an emptiness that consumes, a black hole in our lives. This poem, this Typewriter Series #3072, is about death, but beyond that, it’s about how when someone we truly treasure does leave us, something is left behind. Perhaps what is up to us, is to ensure that when it’s our turn to start again, we leave behind something that comforts while it aches, that soothes though it stings. To carve our a life like names in cement that leave those who knew us better for the knowing.
This poem was a custom poem for a wonderful woman who lost her husband, and I felt honored to see the photos, hear the stories, be a part of the memories, if only during the telling. It all began with one simple line, “We are what we leave behind…” and it grew, above and below, from that point. Healing thing, telling the stories of those we lose, but I cannot imagine it was easy to tell this one.
All I felt during the writing was gratitude, because this story feels almost universal. We all have someone we’re terrified of losing, but hearing this story reminded me that there is life beyond it, too. After all, we’ve all got to make magic worthy of leaving behind.
There are a million ways
to fill a life, to scratch our names
into the cement of our days,
and some I have come to learn
scratch deeper than others.
You were chisel into floor of the earth,
you were the crack that spread
from the letters you drew,
the lines that reached every corner
of the ground I stand upon.
I remember the creatures you caught,
the smile into the lens as you
displayed your catch, rod and reel
and sunburn on your neck,
I remember the awe when you dove
beneath the waves, the silent gasp
at the beauty of their lives.
I remember you never fished again.
We are what we leave behind,
the last hands we held, the legacy
of how we face our ends,
some greet finality with fear,
some with laughter and a refusal
to dim, some scratch deeper
so we never forget their names.
Hear me call out Thank You,
from wherever you may be,
hearn me reach for your fingertips
in the space beyond this darkness.
Reach back with those gentle hands
that carried spiders down
to the end of that street.
-Tyler Knott Gregson-
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