mourning, I’ve learned, is just a moment, many, grief the long betrothal beyond

Day 6: 'looking up'

If you've been to see a doctor in the last couple of years, you know the brief mental health survey that is (or ought to be) given during the exam. The intention of the survey is to determine whether the patient is currently in need of mental health care that they are not receiving. 

It is a difficult set of questions to answer honestly, because there are ramifications beyond the simple yes/no responses. Everything in life has ramifications beyond the simple yes, or no, of course. These are about inefficiency and stigma, weakness and perception. 

I have, since Chris' death, lied my way through that survey at least a dozen times. I'm not saying that because I'm proud of it, or think it's the right thing to do. I don't believe that mental health is unimportant, or less important than physical medical treatment. It's not that it doesn't work for me. I will posit that it is somewhat different for me because of my background; I have a very firm knowledge of how much I can take, and what is too much. I know that I can deal with some things on my own, and what needs to be talked about, can be. I have people. Some of them hear some of this, sometimes. 

It's funny, in the sense of peculiar I suppose, maybe 'quaint', how you can take a little stab at approaching something, conversationally, to see if it is going to be all right to talk about it. When it works, it simply continues from there. When it cannot progress, the direction simply changes and the initiator (if sensitive to it) recognizes that it's not happening. Maybe just that day, maybe not ever. Adjusts. Moves on. 

What follows is a poem that I read about a month ago. It was written by Kevin Young, two-time winner of the Patterson Poetry Prize, Quill Award winner, and PEN/Open Book winner. One of the reasons that Mr. Young's poetry resonates so much for me is that he seems to write from a place that I can identify with very strongly, from grief and loss. Much of his most beautiful and affecting work is about, or at least came after, the death of his father.

This poem is called Wintering.

I am no longer ashamed
how for weeks, after, I wanted
to be deadnot to die,

mind you, or do
myself inbut to be there
already, walking amongst

all those I’d lost, to join
the throng singing,
if that’s what there is

or the nothing, the gnawing
So be it. I wished
to be warm& worn

like the quilt my grandmother
must have made, one side
a patchwork of color

blues, green like the underside
of a leafthe other
an old pattern of the dolls

of the world, never cut out
but sewn whole—if the world
were Scotsmen & sailors

in traditional uniforms.
Mourning, I’ve learned, is just
a moment, many,

grief the long betrothal
beyond. Grief what
we wed, ringing us

heirloom brought
from my father’s hot house
the quilt heavy tonight

at the foot of my marriage bed,
its weight months of needling
& thread. Each straightish,

pale, uneven stitch
like the white hairs I earned
all that hollowed yearpull one

& ten more will come,
wearing white, to its funeral
each a mourner, a winter,

gathering ash at my temple.

[Kevin Young {1970- }, 'Wintering', from Book of Hours]

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