[Poetry Friday] Edward Hirsch on Grief and Mourning

poetry friday

Fats here.

My Poetry Friday offering this week goes out to a co-worker who is having a tough time dealing with her grandmother’s death. I forgot how long ago it has been since her grandma died. I know that it happened in December and I know that she’s still grieving years later.

I discovered the Edward Hirsch’s book, Gabriel, through our online catalog, while searching for random poetry books. Gabriel is a novella in verse that describes the life and death of Edward Hirsch’s son. The excerpt I’m sharing below is what struck me the most. Interestingly, those were the same exact verses shared on Edward Hirsch’s website.

Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Lisa of Steps & Staircases, who also happens to post about grief this week.


I did not know the work of mourning
Is like carrying a bag of cement
Up a mountain at night
The mountaintop is not in sight
Because there is no mountaintop
Poor Sisyphus grief
I did not know I would struggle
Through a ragged underbrush
Without an upward path
Because there is no path
There is only a blunt rock
With a river to fall into
And Time with its medieval chambers
Time with its jagged edges
And blunt instruments
I did not know the work of mourning
Is a labor in the dark
We carry inside ourselves
Though sometimes when I sleep
I am with him again
And then I wake
Poor Sisyphus grief
I am not ready for your heaviness
Cemented to my body
Look closely and you will see
Almost everyone carrying bags
Of cement on their shoulders
That’s why it takes courage
To get out of bed in the morning
And climb into the day
  1. As it happens, December 8th is the day my brother passed away in his sleep in 2001 at a young age leaving behind a very sad sister and a brokenhearted daughter. This poem really captures what it feels like to lose someone you love and today I feel like our grief and sadness is validated. Thanks for sharing this.

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  2. “Poor Sisyphus grief” = yes. This is great. Thank you so much for sharing.

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