Learning Grief

By Kaiser Haq

A study in contrast: at eight
I was dragged from bed
To hand a glass of water
To grandmother in deathbed.

She drank
I went back to sleep
And when I woke up
It was so the stillness
And stifled sobs
Of mourning.
Relations arrived
And religious professionals
Droning from scriptures
As essence smoke rose
In fragrant coils
Father was red-eyed
Withdrawn a sight
To be commented on
By my neighborhood friends
His mother has died, they said,
Clucking in sympathy
I remember feeling
Nothing except that the whole
Scene was novel. The clock
Of my life did not stop
As I did when I was ten
And a sister arrived like a silver
Of moonlight erased
Almost at once by a dark mop
Of cloud: winter pneumonia.
Mother’s gloom was long
As the night, and at school
Day after tasteless day
Under the austere miniature
Of the crucifixion
I went through lesions and exercises,
Sombre as any penitent monk.
Watching friends at play,
At their pranks, I thought:
I’ll never laugh or smile, I’ll never
Feel joy again. Everyone,
Bless them,left me alone
Until one day, like the earth
Feeling its contours change
As seeds detonate under rain
I felt the clock of my life begin
To tick again as a joke
Burst from my lips.
I can laugh again, I thought
Smiling. I had learned grief.
…The End…