“What the Greeks Started” by Margaret A. Turner

Margaret A. Turner


When Aristotle taught that wisdom is born of suffering,
And we should learn to appreciate the drama
Of our tragic state of mind,
The playwrights went after it,
Dished up tragedy for the populace
Who watched and listened in shock and awe
As babies were drowned,
Husbands stabbed in the bath,
Eyes gouged out,
Bodies left in the searing sun
To be pecked and clawed, cleaned
Down to the bone,
Garments rent in anguish,
Swords turned inward
And cities burned
All off stage, of course.

And, finally, the chorus,
The splendid chorus,
Perhaps in gowns of white
Singing in one voice
The tragedy of hubris,
The tragedy of eros,
The twists of reversal,
Souls burned bright
Catharsis and enlightenment
Deus ex machina
And, after, we can only guess,
They all went to the beach for a picnic.

But something is missing.
Hey! Grief doesn’t end like that.
It doesn’t end at all.
It sits at the edge of our days,
Waiting, watching,
Ready to seize us once again
With the sight of a blood stain,
The rattle of ice, a slammed door,
Old photos and found letters,
A phone ringing in the night,
The smell of a room, scent of rain,
Rain on the windshield,
Sickening crunch of metal,
The hollow gaze of a frail parent,
Odor of death,
Certain spring days
And autumn light, flowers,
Fragrance and song,
Grief never fails us,
Joins us always
While we laugh and laugh
And picnic at the beach.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005

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