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June 23, 2012

 I wrote this poem for my sister shortly after she died. I post it here today on the second anniversary of her passing. I took white tulips to her grave today and stood there awhile in the Texas mid-day sun, the sky a blazing blue, host to cotton-white clouds, the wind whipping, as it often does, as though on a slalom course among the other grave stones. I think many people can identify with the poem. My feelings have not changed in the nearly two years since I wrote its first draft. They are more manageable, yes. I bear them more easily, and for that I am grateful.

It has happened that today, the rose bush I planted in her memory has sent forth a pink bud, after not blooming for the past two and a half months. And it has happened that in the midst of a green lawn in my front yard, a handful of wildflowers have appeared, black-eyed Susans... sharing her name. For these things, too, I am most grateful.

Against the Grain in the Sands of Time
for my sister, April 15, 1957 – June 23, 2010

You would come back if you knew
we’d been split asunder by the searing
sharp silence that replaced your song.

You’d come back if you knew how much
we hurt, how harsh the sunlight is,
how unbalanced my mind’s
become. I’ve forgotten where
to turn on roads I’ve known for
35 years, can’t give directions to
travelers, cannot tell between
north and south. Life is confused.

No, not confused. Wrong. Life is wrong.
You’ve gone missing. And it’s time
for you to return, time for that phone call—
“just checking in,” you would say.
Time for ungainly giggles during
church, family dinners, and
moments of crisis. Time to watch
the 1950s movies—swashbucklers,
Westerns, musicals—those things I’d
never watch if you were not here to choose them.
Time for Christmas dinner at your house,
homemade soup and cornbread, simple
gifts shared in thoughtfulness and love.
Time for you to call us together, re-organize us
into the bonds we were born into, time for you
to tell me what new thing you created
at your all-inclusive, demanding job.

Time, time, out-of-time. You are somewhere
now outside of time, and I want you back
inside it, close to me, within talking-
laughing-sharing distance. And I know,

I know you would come back if you knew,
if you just knew how much, how deep,
how far inside we hurt, and how
unrelenting the pain. You loved us that much,
didn’t you?  As much as we love you?

I don’t want to remember, honor, or
memorialize you. I want you back, plain
and simple, here-and-now. I want you back.
I want you back. I want you back. To love
again, anew—you—I want you back.

Poem and photo, copyright Ysabel de la Rosa, all rights reserved.
Ysabel de la Rosa is the editor of this blog. For more information, see Ysabel de la Rosa.


  1. This is indeed a wonderful poem but somewhat unsettling to read for someone like me who has never experienced emotion this strong when his own loved ones have passed away. I very much like the poem but I would not want to live with emotion this intense for any period of time. And yet if one lives with these feelings day in and day out, there is probably no way to divest oneself of them.

  2. Very insightful and honest comment, Donal. Thank you for that. The feelings ebb and flow and they do become more manageable. And we all have our unique ways of feeling. My sister approached loss in a much more practical way than I have ever been able to... and had a special way of lifting us all up when our parents died. I think Barbara Okun, a psychiatrist who specializes in grief recovery, was right when she said that grief, while not pathological, can indeed be chronic. As for divesting... I find that writing the feeling, that which is true in the moment, can help a great deal. The truth of that moment may change shortly after the writing of it, but getting it out onto page or screen and then working with the language can be a healing process. Thanks for reading! Your latest submissions will be online before the end of July. :-)