Playing His Heart Out- Sharon Chmielarz



Lately, I have become enamored with poems about grief. All kinds of grief poems whether elegies, epitaphs, prose poems whatever. I have been exploring these pieces and their restorative power of helping soothe grief. I mean all types of grief. Strong grief that lingers, the tiny griefs of everyday life and the fleeting grief that accompanies finishing something marvelously delicious.

The past two weeks were especially difficult but, then again. I never expect to have an easy Mother’s day weekend ever again. Although it was languishing in my inbox for weeks  (my sincerest thanks to American Life of Poetry Column 566)this piece reminded me that I can be okay with that without being embarrassed or feeling compelled to do or feel differently.

I am not really writing any new pieces or anything until I’ve completed grading for the semester. Fortunately, I can see the end of the tunnel and hope to be finished by Monday morning at the latest. Grading puts a damper on writing consistently. So until then, I am allowing myself to peek into the writing of others and hoping to get back to my own soon!

That day we were trapped
between chartreuse living
room walls and the godly
cleanliness of afghans
saving sofas and chairs.

We were talking about
anything except Uncle Carl—
gone, how we’d miss him—
when Uncle Gus came down
the hall and stood in

the archway, his wiry
body strapped under a black
accordion. “Haven’t played,”
he said, “for a long time.”
So he played a waltz and I

squirmed in my chair under
the slow flow of grief. He
played a polka and I heard
my sister clapping lightly
for the mourner bending over

the keys. His cheek-bones,
red as Helgoland’s
cliffs on the North Sea. Gulls
whirled and screamed around
the black load on his heart.


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