Poetry / Donna Vorreyer
:: Grief Questionnaire ::
1. How do you characterize your grief? a. an entire pan of brownies b. The Cure on shuffle c. the elongated drip of honey into tea d. blankets pulled up, no shower for days 2. Is your grief lapis or indigo? 3. With what tools do you access your grief? a. pick ax and shovel to split bedrock b. “Konstantine” on repeat in the car c. old photographs in a cardboard box d. tattoos of flowers and clocks and stars 4. Is your grief engorged or hollow? 5. What are the intentions of your grief? a. to make you cry in a Target aisle b. to question each minuscule decision c. to guilt you when you laugh or smile d. to comfort in a language you do not speak 6. Is your grief an arrow or a bow? 7. Your grief comes mostly: a. in the last car of a long freight train b. in mosquito bites on your elbows and knees c. in contrails drawn across the evening sky d. in costume dramas on a small screen 8. Is your grief hush or bellow? 9. Describe your grief in less than two hundred words. 10. Rate your grief on a scale from one shoe to a flock of birds.
:: Philosophy 101 ::
I look up to trace my father’s portrait in the stars, make it a constellation, bright enough to illuminate the dark corners of the path I walk too close to dusk with the sun sinking fast, make it smile on the forest in spring, its new green, its messy floor, ferns unfurling from nautilus to broad frond, slow opening like the sweet groping of hands on skin, one ear tuned to the creaking of a door, the rest of the body orchestral with nerves, flushed electric, close to but not quite the engulfing awe of an unspoiled landscape, large enough to hold every breath I’ve ever taken, like the exhausted exhalations of a nine-hour hike through the cloud line, forest, glaciers, a valley pure white, the trail erased by snow, at the end soaked and shivering but so alive and if Kant and Descartes had seen these things, I would never need to ask why I was here, why he was gone, I would cry O stars, O spring, O body, O mountain, my father’s face shining in every single part.
From the writer
:: Account ::
In the months following the deaths of both of my parents, I continued to receive communications from the hospice organization that had assisted us near the end of both of their lives. These questionnaires and brochures, meant to be helpful, were not. They attempted to neatly shape grief into a series of steps or boxes to check off, offered platitudes and meditations, and often made me feel worse rather than better. They made me question whether my own unpredictable, powerful, and often surreal experience of loss was “correct” or “normal.” I started to write poems using the tools of etymology, psychology, philosophy, and even the familiar questionnaire to create my own explorations of this complex journey with language and ideas that felt more familiar, more precise, more related to my own. In the realms of invented narrative, disconnected imagery, and stream of consciousness, I found a sort of relief that seemed tailored to me. Everyone experiences grief differently, and these poems try to capture a bit of the fluctuating nature of my own emotions.
Donna Vorreyer is the author of Every Love Story is an Apocalypse Story (2016) and A House of Many Windows (2013), both from Sundress Publications. Her poems, reviews, and essays have appeared in Rhino, Tinderbox Poetry, Poet Lore, Sugar House Review, Waxwing, Whale Road Review, and many other journals. Her third full-length collection is forthcoming from Sundress in 2020.