Part of the Problem that the Events of Easter Address

Now, after the stunning news of my brother’s sudden death and the planned trip to Boston/Cambridge and the completely unplanned trip to Southern California and the intense mourning and the funeral, it’s back (more or less) to mundane daily routine — in some ways, at least for the first little while, the most difficult period of all.

But this is Easter week, a time when death, hereafter, and resurrection are very naturally on a believing Christian’s mind.

I had planned, anyway, even before my brother died, to devote several posts over the next few days to Easter and Holy Week, and I see no reason to deviate from that intention.

Here’s a melancholy little poem by Theodore Roethke that I first encountered in, of all places, one of the tests I took for college admission (either the ACT or the SAT; I don’t recall which).  It moved me so much that I went home and tracked it down, and have remembered it ever since.  It’s entitled “Elegy for Jane (My student, thrown by a horse)”:

I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once startled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her,
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,

A wren, happy, tail into the wind,
Her song trembling the twigs and small branches.
The shade sang with her;
The leaves, their whispers turned to kissing,
And the mould sang in the bleached valleys under the rose.

Oh, when she was sad, she cast herself down into such a pure depth,
Even a father could not find her:
Scraping her cheek against straw,
Stirring the clearest water.

My sparrow, you are not here,
Waiting like a fern, making a spiney shadow.
The sides of wet stones cannot console me,
Nor the moss, wound with the last light.

If only I could nudge you from this sleep,
My maimed darling, my skittery pigeon.
Over this damp grave I speak the words of my love:
I, with no rights in this matter,
Neither father nor lover.


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