The book of poems is called ‘Bite Every Sorrow.’ The poet is Barbara Ras.
I sat in the sun, in a red chair, reading, and wasn’t really very interested. The poems were not grabbing me, not really my style.
Then I came to a set called ‘Letters To the Front.’ I began to cry. The poems, from a wife to her husband at war, poem 1 tells of how their child is doing, how she doesn’t sleep. That was not what made me cry.
Letter To The Front, 2 speaks of death and remembrance, and touched something within me. Reading this in the week after my best friend died, when the wound was still raw, this poem spoke to me. It’s hard to explain why, exactly, since the poet speaks of the death of a husband and lover. Yet I feel Michele’s loss in many of the same ways; we were young girls together, and every day something happens that makes me feel her absence. It says things I couldn’t say then. Isn’t that what poetry is for, really? To help us speak, when we cannot?
I won’t include the entire thing here, because it is quite long, but I’ll hit the highlights, the parts that spoke to me.
LETTER TO THE FRONT, 2
When it is still, I listen for your voice.
It has a life of its own, without you.
On bad day, just words, strength,
On good days, stories, like children coming out after rain….
Before the war, I thought I knew
where we stood, the ground
solid and the big blue earth
held up by a turtle and below that
turtles all the way down….
I watched a man touch his wife
on the cheek with the rounded back
of his hand. Just once, his half-fist
brushed the invisibly fine fur of her face,
just once, like a comb, like salt, like a line
their bodies would never cross.
Some days I can’t eat. By night
I am hollow with caves, your absence painting
my walls with giraffes, swans,
a black rabbit whose eyes are vermillion.
No one knows about the animals.
No one knows about the speechlessness they keep.
When we danced and our bodies curled
to each other, I couldn’t imagine collisions.
It was the sea I wanted to feel under us.
Now there are windows.
This one to see if there’s fire.
This one to see if
there’s bigger fire.
This one for the bomb
the size of a Volkswagen shot twenty miles.
This one for you. This one for you.
by Barbara Ras