By Malkie Hirsch
In the past four months I’ve read and reread “The Thing Is” by Ellen Bass several times.
When people stop me to explain that the words I write resonate with them and the challenges that they face in their lives, it’s humbling and very touching.
The fact that I can tell people through my written word that I feel the pain they feel, that they’re not alone in their life circumstances, gives me the strength and the courage to introspect and go on writing about not just my feelings, but the feelings of many others who may not have the ability to articulate themselves in words or have a voice to tell their loved ones how they feel.
I say this because this is exactly how I feel when I read this short but extremely clear and concise poem. It fully embodies that feeling of grief that I formerly thought impossible to put so succinctly into words.
The feeling of drowning in your own sadness, struggling to breathe when it’s a basic function that everyone should be able to do, wondering how one’s body can be capable of going on after tragedy hits and should paralyze you.
But then looking at yourself in the same mirror you always have and knowing that one day, you will love life again. You can be happy again.
You will move forward, and while you might never be the person you once were, you will still be. It’s your choice.
Take that face between your palms and tell it that you will love it once again.
Malkie’s husband Moshe, a’h, passed away in March at the age of 40. She has been sharing her thoughts and emotions with readers on her Instagram page. We are privileged to share her writings and reflections with our readership. May Moshe’s memory be a blessing for Malkie and her beautiful family.
The Thing Is
By Ellen Bass
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
“The Thing Is” is excerpted from Ellen Bass’s poetry compilation “In Mules of Love,” available on Amazon.com.