Poetry Friday: “Before Writing Back…”

What do you say to a friend whose loved one is dying? What words are adequate in the face of death? We stammer or babble or, worse, say nothing. What our friends need in their grief, what we need in ours, is the person who will allow her heart to beat beside ours. The companion who will, in Heather Kirn Lanier‘s striking words, “lie down next to” us in our sorrow.

Before Writing Back to a Friend Whose Mother is Dying, You Stare…

Heather Kirn Lanier

Before writing back to a friend whose mother is dying, you stare…
at the empty fireplace.

Don’t make it a metaphor.

That the soot in the fireplace has smothered
every brick but where the fire burned,
that the bricks now hold a ghost
of flames that once flickered there

doesn’t mean anything.
Just write your friend back.

You have to figure out how to fill
an email with nothing
but a bed of silence, and the silence

can’t be empty,
though it must be empty of your own grief.
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