Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If You Are Reading This Poem

Adrienne Rich wrote the first poem with a similar first line, (I Know You Are Reading This Poem), which can be found here. And over at Real Toads Ruth, of Turtle Memoir, recently blew us away with her tribute to Adrienne, a poem patterned after Ms. Rich's poem. Both poems really spoke to me. (Do check them out, they are both astounding works of art). But the title took me somewhere else. I imagined my kids reading my poems after I am gone, and wanted to see what I could produce in another direction, with the borrowing of this title.

If you are reading this poem,
some distant day 
in the years ahead,
then I am gone,
passed into the corridors of time
and memory,
my voice and cackle silenced,
but still to be found
through all these words
I've left behind.

Will you read them?
Will you finally begin
to understand
this wayfarer,
plodding pilgrim,
who slogged through swamps
but also soared, at times,
through the bluest of skies,
always looking up
to count the clouds,
to nod my kinship to trees
with their dancing branches,
a pilgrim whose feet
stayed on the ground
but whose heart so often
tried to fly free
of its moorings.

Take this book.
Go sit beside the riverbank
and turn each page,
where I have recorded
the moments of joy
and heartbreak,
of love for this suffering planet
and its confused humanity.
Listen to the song of the river
that companioned me 
through my last years,
whose voice was surrogate 
for my beloved too-far-from-me sea,
my heart always keening
for the cry of the gull,
the smell of  sea-salt and fog,
the sight of that long sandy beach
stretching ahead of me to Forever.

You may notice
the twinned themes
of gratitude and grief,
reflect upon the rocky road
and all the losses-
so many starting overs
with scarcity of resources,
but no shortage 
of indomitable will.

In later years
my shoulders became 
less able to bear the weight
of all that had been lost
at such great cost.
Grief finally caught me 
by the throat and
made me pay 
for all the times
I stayed too strong
to grieve and, finally,
I shed a century 
of accumulated tears
that could no longer
be denied.
I grieved it all:
my childhood,
my youth that fell into brutal hands,
my store by the sea, my livelihood,
my trust, all gone, and years more
to recover.
Once more starting over from scratch,
as I would several times again.

Mid-life, one glorious leap
to the wild west coast
and ten ecstatic years of joy
in the fulfillment of my dream.

Know that those ten years are golden
in my memory and that,
in those years,
I experienced all that life could be.

I grieved my leaving of the sea,
the decade of making do with so much less
and, finally, and hardest of all,
my wolf-dog.
With his passing, 
the last link to 
those glorious times
was gone,
along with the one creature 
on this earth
who had loved me

One year of tears, and more,
filling my rowboat 
to the point of capsizing,
faster than I could bail,
as old griefs hopped aboard
the new and finally 
found release.

Yes, there have been many losses,
and many making do's.
But always, too, 
there has been
for all that is,
for all that there has been.
Remember, if you will,
that I had a valiant heart,
an insistence on hope.
Quote my oft-repeated refrain that,
as long as there were blue skies
and God's green earth,
I had everything I most needed
and considered myself
wealthy beyond compare.

Remember my unceasing gratitude
for life's beauty,
for eyes with which to see it,
for feet to walk me across the forest floor
and for my great love, the song of the sea,
which showed my soul a vastness of vision
it never could have encompassed
on its own.

If you are reading this poem,
you may wish that we had talked more
about the real stuff,
didn't leave so much unsaid.
But never worry.
In the heart and in one's spirit,
as we increase in wisdom,
one knows what is intended,
one understands everything
and lets go of the small wounds 
and disappointments
and the big,
under the over-arching canopy 
of comprehending
that every soul mine touched
while I was here
was meant to find me.
Each child who came to 
life through me
was meant to be my child
and, through each one of you, 
I grew in different ways
that were possible only through
having been your mom.

Some souls have 
a more difficult passage;
such has been ours
on this planet.
But in one lifetime,
I feel like 
I have lived
at least ten lives,
each life one decade long.
In each, I grew and changed
and, always, I was moving forward.

Finally, if you are reading this poem,
know "there is peace
that surpasses understanding". 
Towards the end, one forgets
all the pain,
and remembers mostly the good:
the laughter, the sunsets,
the glorious adventure,
the pilgrimage,
the growth and the glory.
One remembers the love
and those one has loved
and forgets all the might-have-beens,
in the compassion of understanding
that nothing could possibly 
have happened
any differently,
given my beginnings,
and there came a time
when I would not have had it
any other way.

If you are reading this poem,
put this book down now,
and do me one final favor:
Look around you. Just look.
What do you see?
Are you sitting by the shore at sunset?
Are you on a forest trail, leaning against 
the comforting trunk of an ancient cedar?
Are you by the river,
listening to the roar of the rapids,
waiting for the salmon to arrive?
Turn your eyes around you 
in a complete circle.
Love all that you see.

Look at it all
with brand new eyes.
Look at it, for me.


  1. WOW! Is all I can say. Beautiful, lovely, creative, and just truly blessed! I loved every word of this poem and was happy at the end to say I read through its beautiful entirety and just loved. Thanks for the wonderful reminders of what we have in the now...thank you!

  2. Good poem. WHEN you write your poetry book, this would be good either as a prologue or epilogue. Gratitude and Grief -- Yup, that is the stuff of life. Well done, in every way.

  3. This is so beautiful and heartfelt. I agree, put the poems in a book. This would make a great prologue.

  4. this has me all choked up. of course they will read it. they will hang on every single word. and so many! what a gift. love to you, sherry. *sniff*

  5. Sherry, Sherry, Sherry - I read and re-read this and still have tears streaming down my face ... in the background I have Billy Vera singing "Hopeless Romantic" and it's the perfect soundtrack in some ways to your beautiful poem ... may you always feel this wonderfully blessed and be able to express yourself so eloquently - I bow to you

  6. Wow, Sherry. You've left my eyes all watery. Thank you! Beautiful beyond words.

  7. This is has brought me tears. You have left a gift that will bless all those who read it.

  8. Sherry... touching beautiful...what to say more....

    Some kind of pain this poem is giving me ...I can't understand ,somehow compelled to read it again....

  9. Your words and thoughts in this encapsulated so much of so many of us. Thanks for being our voices, in this prologue. I've seen the sea, maybe a different one and I've anguished over unrequited loves and tasted many times the salt of my tears for humanity in general but what I could do, I think I've done and shall try to regret little. You have spoken wisely and echoed many a soul. Let's join our hearts our common spirits in that nebulae beyond.

    'be good and kind to yourself for you are a part of the universe'.

  10. If anyone is reading this, how can they fail to be moved.
    This is the heart and soul of you Sherry, poured out in words which flow as does your life, in uneven patterns and waves across the surface of existence. You will leave behind a lasting legacy of someone who lived, loved and learned. Someone who maybe needed more but, in truth, wanted for nothing because she had known what it was to both love and to be loved.
    What a wonderful read. I hope one day to read the book too. :)

  11. Sherry, this is wonderful. I'm still teary-eyed; it's so beautiful. I can tell this came from the heart. I have been writing memoirs for my boys, but I have never attempted something like this. You've inspired me - and you've done a great service to Adrienne Rich. Just lovely. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will be back to read it again.


  12. Beautiful, beautiful. BEAUTIFUL. Love the last lines, especially. Perfect.

  13. I love (LOVE!) this, Sherry - and what an awesome memento to leave behind when you go, as we all must. I too wonder sometimes if they'll read me after I'm gone, and finally understand...

  14. sweet beautiful soul, you have reached in and held my heart with such tenderness as I read and inhaled each line.

    that every soul mine touched
    while I was here
    was meant to find me."


  15. My mother died two weeks ago. How I would have loved to read such a poem by her.

    This is so beautiful and sad. Teary eyed I read it and felt I saw your spirit, so alive and giving. Thank you Sherry for this magnificent gift, so well written and sincere.

  16. I haven't looked yet at the other two poems that inspired this. Wanted to com to yours without extraneous influence, and I'm so glad I did. What a stunning, glorious work! You MUST make certain your children do see this - maybe before your death, which I trust is a long way off. It ought to be read at your funeral! And definitely published meantime. (When is that book happening?)

    Love you, Sherry!

  17. Sherry,

    I see you in this poem. It has that good wholesome, earth feel, which must be you Sherry.
    A most beautiful walk through life, while giving thanks for the gifts along the way. Of course, the mention of your wolfdog...A spiritual delight:)
    Best wishes ,

  18. Sherry, I am reading this poem, now, in the present. I am circling slowly, completely, now. I have forced open my eyes and my mind, wide. I love what I see. I will do the same tomorrow, with brand new eyes. I will do it so I can share it with others, for you, so you might enjoy it, now, today, tomorrow, again.

  19. I shall never have enough of your wit, wisdom and loving guidance, shared in the guise of poetry. You continue to teach me. I continue to learn. I am blessed.

  20. THIS is an astounding work of art, Sherry! and a wonderful tale of life and living. you took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes ~ this is stunning!

    thank you for sharing.


I so appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.
Thank you so much. I will be over to see you soon!