The Unlit Heart

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“People who have recently lost someone have a certain look, recognizable maybe only to those who had seen that look on their own faces. I have noticed it on my face and I notice it on others. The look is one of extreme vulnerability, nakedness, openness . . . Those people who have lost someone look naked because they think themselves invisible.”—Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking

how are losses measured on a face?

the last time i was a friend of Sadness
it slapped my face with such force
the welts it left seem imprinted for life,
the pain that passed a reminder that
life follows loss after loss after
still another loss

the scarred, the widowed, the benumbed
heart wears layers of protective gauze,
the sort i’ve seen in pictures of women
with lotus feet.


the wounds inside oft rise,
making their selves visible
on the thinning hair of white,
on the grooves of the forehead,
in the unsparkled eyes,
on the downturned lips,
in that auto-generated
response of “i’m okay”
to every “but how ARE you, dear?”

the lie of surface wellness becomes
necessary for we who must in
our day to day survive life’s jokes/
riddles/curve balls/ironies

the sun
won’t touch
the coldness
the soul
decides to keep
after years
of love

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