A few words are necessary to frame what follows. The subject is difficult, but also universal and all too real.
I chose poetry to record and examine this one story of death because this seemed the best way to intensify reality, not seek refuge from it. I deeply believe true healing only comes from the hard and narrow path of reality, not the wide and sunny one of escapism. And that this is poetry’s job. Some of my friends worry about this tendency of mine and probably wonder if I’m just drawn to the dark.
Quite the opposite. I don’t love the dark; I see it as a powerful, but inferior, actor in the scheme of things. Death, and the suffering that often precedes it, is but one half of a grander composition of Nature’s music. We are unwilling participants in the great wheel’s eternal turning, caught in the cycle of birth, death, and renewal.
In writing these during, and after, my wife’s last illness and death, I was helping myself understand it all. The Johnny Cash imagery of the ‘whirlwind in a thorn tree’ spoke to me during most of it. I was thrown around and around by the whirlwind, impaled on one sharp thing after another, never able to rest or escape.
Until I was.
I gradually learned that death was one thing, grief quite another. Death is going over the waterfall, grief is what happens to you on the way down, hitting the rocks and the turbulence as you go.
So these poems track the progress of grief, of my struggle to understand my losses and figure out how to escape the whirlwind and the thorns. And of how to rebuild everything from scratch.
I realized that what I had gone through, while it was the most important thing to me, is also a very common and ordinary thing. Everyone, sooner or later, faces the same thing. There was nothing special about my journey other than it happened to me and some people close to me. But there may be some comfort here for those who are just beginning their time in the thorn tree.
I hope that’s true and is why I finally decided to make these pieces available.
OCTOBER 2016 / JULY 2019 AUTHOR OF THE MONTH at Spillwords.com
“Hemmingplay,” is the pen name of Doug Stanfield, who grew up on a family farm in western Ohio, went with his parents for two years in Karachi, Pakistan, in high school and had lived, until recently, in Bellefonte, PA with his late wife, Wilda and their two sons, Ben and John. Doug was a writer, editor and director of internet communications at Penn State for 26 years. He has had a few disreputable occupations, including newspaper reporter and editor, and public relations flak, but is trying to make amends for his sins by writing poetry and fiction. When his sons were safely off making their own mistakes, he turned on the computer one day, stared at the screen for what seemed a long time, and began to learn the craft anew at age 67. Doug has published three books so far: "Mermaid Sisters: First Dive", a children's book on iTunes/iBook; "I Came From A Place of Fireflies" published as a paperback and Kindle on Amazon, and a new book of poetry, "Snowflakes & Ashes: Meditations on the Temporary”, available as both an ebook and as a paperback. (Gatekeeper Press) on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and a few others.)
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