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The Grieve Writing Project is facilitated by the Hunter Writers Centre, and offers people an opportunity to write a poem or short story about their experience of loss and grief. Around 120 pieces are selected for publication each year in the Grieve Anthology, with the readings and awards held in August, Grief Awareness Month in Australia. Last year I responded to their submission call and one of my poems was included in the e-version of the book.

We all experience loss at one time or another; some more than others and at varying degrees. I lost my Dad to cancer in 2007 (it’s a funny expression, as if I’ve been trying to find him since). His death was sudden, somewhat unusual with cancer – primary in the bowel and secondary in the liver, which was ironic considering he was in a bowel-screening program. My Dad was a beautiful man and his going so soon hit me hard, as it did other members of my family. So my poem was about him; I’ll share it here:

 

Because

 

you’ve gone Dad, I’m arranging a new one

mending myself to you piece by fabricated piece.

 

I begin with your feet, position your once white

trainers so you’re surveying the back garden

 

what to trim and weed. Next, the grass-stained

paint-splattered jeans you wore at weekends

 

to do odd jobs around the house, which always

took you longer than planned. To finish, a red

 

sweater that hints of you, even now. All you

need is a little life. Closing the wardrobe

 

I swear I see your foot twitch, picture you smiling

at me like the last time I saw you, which I knew

 

would be the last. I tie your laces, just in case.

Copyright © J V Birch 2018

 

The anthology is an emotive read of fearless writing – poems and stories of grief and loss from authors who, from their own painful experiences, have bravely revisited and crafted them to share an amazing variety of pieces. It’s the kind of read that can overwhelm if not prepared; it left me with a profound sense of connection.

And I’ll leave you with one of my favourites by Rachael Mead, an extremely talented poet and very good friend, whose poem won the National Association of Loss and Grief (NALAG) Award:

 

Powerless

 

Three days without power and the only sounds

are wind, rain and the hiss of flame beneath the kettle.

 

I don’t mind. Quiet is the road blocked by tree-fall,

reminding us that electricity is not the fifth element.

 

I am reading on the couch when our neighbour

knocks.                      Tom has died, she says.

 

It’s the final erasure of that disease, the one

that eventually steals everything, from his last

 

conversation to the memory of his wife of 60 years.

She is strong but after she leaves the grey air

 

seems especially sad and even a little jagged.

The world is not what we want. Our minds,

 

those tender, playful muscles stiffen and seize,

however hard we work at making ourselves

 

original. Beyond the glass, the green earth

blurs with rain, the trees bend and crack

 

in allegories of wind.            My heart folds

and folds itself down into a tiny yet infinitely

 

dense thing: a grain of sand, a mote of dust,

a faraway star we all know full well is dead.

Copyright © Rachael Mead 2017

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