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."


Waterdrops on window pane



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.





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.