Poetry, Mourning and Theatre
"Alice Oswald's recent lecture linking water and grief and your invitation to consider literature's role in mourning and healing swirled together to remind me of these two short poems: the first, 'Teardrop' traces the path from life to death by the fall of a 'liquid body' while the second, 'The Sacred Philosophy of Rain' also tracing a drop of water, is more hopeful as the drop recycles to the cloud through evaporation, a metaphor for the continuous cycle of life."
A liquid body hangs
above her head
carrying doors banged shut
and red-ink hate mail
on official paper, snuck in
while she laboured.
A disco ball in the low sun,
silently growing, pregnant
with blades and needles
and sharp-cornered things
that threaten to yield to
the pull of the deep hole.
Strange how ‘grave’ looks
like ‘gravity,’ the cold that
sucks everything to its feet –
stars, tears, eyelids. We are
mere liquid bodies hanging
around, she muses, looking
up at it, her eye tracing
the outline, a noose. It falls,
as everything falls.
THE SACRED PHILOSOPHY OF RAIN
I am shaped suddenly, a raindrop in a gravid cloud.
My vertical journey is filled with sensations of life –
sights of smiling mountains risen like frozen deities,
starlings in murmuration dance, whiffs of pine and mint,
of peat-smoked barley, ripples that awaken my open eyes.
I am a brushstroke in a grey-brown landscape, a note
in a symphonic storm. Then, on cue, I crash. A perfect
chaotic moment that vibrates as I become the lake.
I am no longer a noose, but this is not a death, I become
unbroken, memory and expectation, a heaven where all is
rearranged before vapour takes flight, charged with
fingerprints to feed the cloud, ready for its water to break.
Athol Williams is a DPhil Candidate in Politics at the University of Oxford. You can learn more about him here.