Those who have survived

When did they teach us
Those who have survived
How to grieve?
I do not remember.
When did they teach us
How to live with a bottomless,
Emptiness-infested abyss
Deep inside us?
I do not recall.
A loved one leaves us
And we are left to fend for ourselves,
To walk on only one leg,
To gaze at the world
Through a single eye,
To trudge and slog all on our own
Across trackless immensities,
Vast tundras and deserts of absence,
To awaken every day
Unable to escape the leaden dreams
That sink us in despair.
Did someone explain grief to us?
Did someone explain the mute howl
Echoing down the long corridors
Of our blood?
Was there a wise old friend
Who led us into the forest
To listen for guidance
In the conversations of owls?
Was there a boon companion
Whose loving silence
Inhabited our body,
Balm to the jagged lacerations of our soul,
Comfort to our blindly bewildered heart?
Who mentored us in the art of loss?
When did they teach us
How to grieve?

Buff Whitman-Bradley’s newest book is And What Will We Sing? a collection of protest and social justice poems spanning the last 25 years. He podcasts at and lives with his wife, Cynthia, in northern California. Read other articles by Buff.