“Grief” by Susan Carroll Jewell

Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2021: Artist’s Choice


Family by Gouri Prakash, photograph of ducks swimming in opposite directions

Image: “Family” by Gouri Prakash. “Grief” was written by Susan Carroll Jewell for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, October 2021, and selected as the Artist’s Choice. (PDF / JPG)


Susan Carroll Jewell


She lands with the others, but now has turned away
without ruffling this pond. Each feather carries its own

reflection, wings tucked, tails up, self-involved,
unaware that she is drifting clumsy and tired

into a marshy space. You watch, guessing at the patterns
beneath the surface, how legs rhythmically punch webs

through water, the complicated currents she cannot navigate.
Her hollow bones fill with heaviness. The others move on.

She drifts away in the open, abandoned like the egg
that never hatched, the unfamiliar commonplace of loss.

You want to tell her that nothing lasts forever, show her
the brilliant colors of this day, but a blind eye cannot see

even if it tries. You want to believe in science, that simple
observation can affect what happens, that your attention

can make a difference, alter her direction. If this were true,
we could clear the heavy air. We are so small on this tiny pond.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
October 2021, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Gouri Prakash: “As I read the poems, I felt like I was looking through a kaleidoscope of perspectives. No two poems had the same idea or interpretation. In line, ‘Grief’ is a poem that reminds me of a different situation or a new context every time I read it. The central idea of how another’s grief can be so palpable that it leads to one’s own feelings of hopelessness at being unable to serve as a source of respite, is gracefully renditioned. The last line, ‘We are so small on this tiny pond,’ underlines the sense of despair that pervades our tightly-knit worlds.”

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