on some October morning

I cannot categorize this new sort of loss
cannot place it in the drawer with the newspaper clippings
and the final smudged photo that I have of us together
to lose the place where we last sat
in those second-hand chairs beneath the light-limned canopy
of grape leaves, where you smoked your cigarette
and slouched, as was your habit,
while I let the sun dry my hair
it was early October and just days from now
the sky will break open again on the day of our parting
you said little – you always said little –
my brother, I did not know the chapter of your passing
had been written already and that we were just pages away
from the saddest sort of forever

to let go of this place of leavetaking
this little white house with the red geraniums
and the garage where time fell away
into the dust of all these tomorrows
that continue to rise without you
it is like losing you all over again
and now coming home is to another place entirely
where you have never been, have never breathed
and we have never sat in silence, on some October morning
watching the curling ascent of smoke
from the tip of your forgotten cigarette

© Sarah Whiteley

At times it really strikes me as odd to post pieces of poetry that divulge such personal snippets of my life and yet I am hesitant to expose the underlying meaning… the story behind the poem. Perhaps it’s best at times to leave poetry as it is – open to interpretation and thereby more relatable to the reader. But sometimes I feel the overwhelming urge to say “this is what this means.”

I’m having an unexpectedly difficult time with something and it’s caught me so off-guard that I feel a bit like I’ve been knocked off my feet. Some of you have gleaned I lost a brother a few years ago. It was an extremely difficult thing to go through – not just his actual loss, but the way we lost him. You see, I did not know when I last saw him that he already knew he was dying. He chose not to say anything to his family, and I have to say I more than respect that decision. He was able to enjoy, without the burden of our sorrow, his last months on this earth. And while it means I never got to say goodbye to him, I do (truly do) understand his motivation.

Now the place where we were all last together (the place, in fact, where he passed) will no longer be home. I always knew this was a possibility as my mom and her husband lease the house – and now the house is being sold out from under them. And it’s happened so quickly that by the time I am able to fly out there in November, they will have already moved. In some ways, maybe this is a blessing. But in others,… well,… like I said – I cannot seem to categorize this particular loss.

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16 thoughts on “on some October morning

  1. Grief is an odd companion after such a loss. It turns up when we least expect it. I completely understand the sadness of losing the ‘place’ of memories.
    I have nothing to offer, other than yes, I hear you and yes, I understand. Memories you will always have and place is not necessary to retrieve them. He will always be a part of your heart – wherever you are. K

  2. I had considered marking this post as private this morning. I grew up in a family of stoics where we just do not wear our feelings on the outside. But your comments have been so kind and so heartfelt, that I feel a little bit braver about leaving this out there. So thank you,… you are all most kind and the sort of compassionate people I am pleased to have visit.

  3. some loss can never be categorized… all we know is that it is deep within us, and how dare someone label such a nameless thing, such a private thing… and personally, I understand the struggle of whether or not to publicize something so valuable and painful… but I find the most comfort i my poetry and the most relief. People may not share your particular sorrow, but we all have sorrows of nameless faces.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. whoosh, sarah, i have to say that beyond the story of your poem, i am overwhelmed by the clarity and beauty of the intricate specificity of this poem. it is simply incredible. and i am sorry for your loss, though it has wrought brilliance from you. xoxo

  5. People and places and the grief associated with the passing of both is something all of us experience at some point. I know that your expression of loss here is different from mine and yet there are most certainly parallels in expression that allow my own reflection of personal grief to air a little – which is good. A powerful piece that allows us glimpses of you and also ourselves.

  6. dear sarah,

    this poem is so beautiful that i have to stop everything that i am doing at the moment. i could not fathom the unbearable loss you may have when your brother died. and this poem made it home to where you hoped to be. all the best to you.

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