I don’t know how I came to this essay by the poet Tishani Doshi, on the death of her dog. It feels like a long time, the time in which I’m reading it.
I want death to be peaceful. To be able to go to sleep and never wake up. But here is her body and here is death moving through it.
I think of Şımarık, of course.
We cover her with sand, leave her bowl beside her.
But I think too, because it is an essay that was written at the end of 2020, of everywhere else the essay goes. Is still going.
I think of earlier this year, when I shared a poem in a workshop. It was one of those poems that we, some of us, have been writing or anyway trying to write, for a while now. One of those ways in which we keep trying to make sense of the massiveness of what has happened, and what is maybe still happening. What even the what, is.
Some day I will post the poem. But in the meantime, here is Doshi:
It has been inside me this whole year, this anticipatory grief – a knowledge that you will lose something, and after that you may lose some more. It is a directionless, unpredictable grief that settles inside you. You cannot know which way to look, which new thing will destroy you. What you know is that eventually you must mourn, so you must be alert to it. It will come in the form of death and something about you will have to change in order to hold this death.
I’ve been thinking about what the sound of this collective grief that has settled in so many bodies all over the world could be? Is it a hum, a chainsaw, a maddening drip?
I think of that phenomenon in The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes—a river rushing nonsensically upstream, its wave and wash lit by half a dozen chasing torchbeams:
I don’t think I can properly convey the effect that moment had on me. It wasn’t like a tornado or an earthquake (not that I’d witnessed either) – nature being violent and destructive, putting us in our place.
It was more unsettling because it looked and felt quietly wrong, as if some small lever of the universe had been pressed, and here, just for these minutes, nature was reversed, and time with it.
Except of course, now, this. More than minutes.
More than now.
What happens when anticipatory grief meets itself downriver…? Or when a tidal bore makes for a river that returns, momentarily, to wash over what it was? When we stop like we do sometimes, at these thresholds between one year and the next? When we turn to look at the people we were back then — look, they’re floating so close you could almost reach out and touch them. Those people who worried about all of us, here and now. How we’d manage. How many of us, would be left.
The work of survival is the work of mourning…
…but what you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.
Who we would have become.
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