“Help me | translate loss the way this land does— | flood, earthquake, landslide— | terrible, and alive.” ~ Deborah Miranda, from “Old Territory. New Maps.”

“The Swamp” (1900, oil on canvas)
by Gustav Klimt


Two for Tuesday: Deborah Miranda

Our Lady of Perpetual Loss

Maybe all losses before this one are practice:
maybe all grief that comes after her death seems tame.
I wish I knew how to make dying simple,
wish our mother’s last week were not constructed
of clear plastic tubing, IVs, oxygen hiss,
cough medicine, morphine patches, radiation tattoos,
the useless burn on her chest.
I’m still the incurable optimist, she whispers,
you’re still the eternal pessimist.
My sister sleeps on a sofa; our brother, exhausted,
rolls up in a blanket on the hard floor.
Curled in a rented white bed, our mother’s body
races to catch up with her driven, nomadic soul.
Those nights alone, foster care, empty beer bottles
taught us she was always already vanishing.


Advice from La Llorona

—a found poem

Each grief has its unique side.
Choose the one that appeals to you.
Go gently.
Your body needs energy to repair the amputation.
Humor phantom pain.
Your brain cells are soaked with salt;
connections fail unexpectedly and often.
Ask for help.
Accept help.
Read your grief like the daily newspaper:
headlines may have information you need.
Scream. Drop-kick the garbage can across the street.
Don’t feel guilty if you have a good time.
Don’t act as if you haven’t been hit by a Mack Truck.
Do things a little differently
but don’t make a lot of changes.
Revel in contradiction.
Talk to the person who died.
Give her a piece of your mind.
Try to touch someone at least once a day.
Approach grief with determination.
Pretend the finish line doesn’t keep receding.
Lean into the pain.
You can’t outrun it.


Music by Orenda Fink, “Why is the Night Sad”

2 thoughts on ““Help me | translate loss the way this land does— | flood, earthquake, landslide— | terrible, and alive.” ~ Deborah Miranda, from “Old Territory. New Maps.”

  1. My daughter and I sat beside my mother-in-law as she died. Andrea (my daughter) was sixteen at the time. She was holding her grandmother’s hand as she took her final breaths. I realized what was happening and did not want to frighten my daughter. A few moments after her last breath was drawn, my daughter lifted her grandmother’s still hand to her lips and gently kissed it. Andrea laid the hand softy on her chest and looked up at me. “No gentle breeze, no soft music playing in the distance, no fanfare,,,,,,,,death simply is…….death.” I was astounded at her comprehension of what had just happened,

    Soon the hustle of end of life chores began. The nurses came in and removed IV’s and prepared the body for transport to the funeral home. The business of life overtook the quiet. But I will always remember that for the briefest moment with no loud trumpets or fanfare, death came and was simply death.

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