137 Comments

Beautiful, beautiful poetry, Pádraig. Thank you for sharing it and the tribute to your dear friend.

My mother speaks to me as a mourning dove. Like the dove, my mother was sweet and gentle. I have been so pleased to hear doves in this new place to where I relocated. This year marked 40 years (!) that I have been without her physical presence.

The sound of the mourning dove is also wistful, and even sometimes sad, but the bird still sings. Her life with my father was not easy. She is buried next to two tiny grave stones of my brothers, who were described to me as “stillborn.” I was too young to understand how heart-wrenching this had to be for her, happening at a time when such tragedies were not discussed, but hushed.

Thanks to the mourning dove, my mom can be brought to my mind and my heart, where I can recall her love and tenderness.

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Yes, the mourning dove can be a “morning” dove — the dawn of a new day. Thanks for your heartfelt reflection!

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Beautifully said, Karen. I hear my grandmother in the mourning dove and feel most comforted by her gentle coo.

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Thank you for sharing HB about your grandmother, Lisa.

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Thank you, Pádraig, for your lovely poem of remembrance by association. A word. A life. Very touching, indeed. I lost my brother to the pandemic and it was one word that wormed its way into a poem:

CAPSIZE for my brother

Brother, you and I were in the kitchen

making pineapple sandwiches for lunch.

You were seven.

I was four.

The lid to the jar of mayonnaise slipped

from my fingers

and fell to the floor spinning

in a lopsided dance till it quit, having landed

upside down. ‘Capsize,’ you said.

That’s what you call it

when something falls

and flips over onto the ground,

or when a boat is about to sink

into the sea.

The word burrowed into my brain,

where it waits, always, for the spiraling

sound of a fallen jar-lid spinning

onto the floor, that polished memory

breaking loose and rising still

with the winnowing song of your laughter,

a warm wind above my head.

You gave us something

in our trajectory of brotherhood, something dear

and enduring, two lost children surviving

an empty house, searching

for love, hope, and words,

the singing of the ocean

our only lullaby.

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Beautiful words.

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A lovel tribute to your brother... The foodie in me wants to know how to make a pineapple sandwich!😂

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My mother took my siblings and I strawberry picking when we were young. I remember her telling us that every berry we picked must be placed in the quart box and not in our mouths. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who tasted just one when Mom wasn’t looking.

Every year since her death I have picked strawberries, usually the first two weeks of June. Last week I picked thirteen pounds of strawberries. Such an abundance! They were so big and red and delicious. I couldn’t help myself when I popped one in my mouth while bent over and instinctively looking over my shoulder hoping Mom wouldn’t catch me.

Come next January on a cold snowy day I will toast some bread and spread strawberry jam, allowing the warm June day and memories of Mom to escape the jar. Sweet memories!

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I love this. We would go wild blueberry picking when we were little and my father would announce that some berries said "eat me" after being picked. We managed a coffee can full to bring home if we were lucky.

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Thank you for sharing this expression of grief and joy for your friend.

druí donn - I am thankful for having now learned what to call the lovely little brown puffs of resourcefulness that inhabit my hedges. While i do wish they’d stop building a nest in the corner above our porch (the detritus and droppings!) they never quit, their trilling calls filling the air.

This past week I visited my great Aunt (Helen Wright, 99 years old) and just sat with her for a while. The running joke in the family is to see who can stay on the phone with her the longest. Her desire for succinct kindness is only surpassed by her loving brashness (and her ability to continue to smoke! The smell oh the smell!) Anyway, she never married and never had kids, but my three siblings and I would go visit her in waves, always knowing that a stay with “Hank” (I couldn’t say “Helen” when I was little so the name stuck) was an exotic retreat oasis, probably for my parents as well who could get rid of two out of the four of us for a few days. We had Pop tarts for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly for lunch, pizza out for dinner. Thoroughly spoiled. So sitting next to her I thought back on all the times we moved through that house, played in the yard, no doubt broke any number for artifacts in what remains a museum of a house. My time with her is shrinking, and I feel privileged to be able to be aware of and hold that time in my mind.

As is so often the case, the timing and nature of these prompt is perfect. Thanks Pádraig.

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I love this and those meals you mention are a delicious toast to your connection with her, pun intended!

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Wonderful anecdote! Thank you, Jonathan.

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To undo dis-membering. To re-member.

The death of a child is dis-membering. Like some part of you has been ripped away. You think you won't be able to survive it. But re-membering is restorative and we can learn to live through those memories into a new kind of wholeness. A broken wholeness . . . which is unbroken.

He was a lover of all things wild. He could whistle bird songs, knew every Texas wildflower by name and loved mountain laurels. He loved all dogs. He loved deeply and we re-member him deeply. He lives in us and while that isn't the same as his beautiful tangible presence, it is pure and is is real.

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Thank you Janie, what a beautiful remembering of your son. I am also a mother who holds the sacred charge of remembering a son who died before me. He was also a lover of all things wild, but also a lover of old VWs and motorcycles. He was so young-- just turned 21-- that he hadn't yet settled on which call was strongest. I can't say it better than you did, so I'll repeat it: "He loved deeply and we re-member him deeply. He lives in us and while that isn't the same as his beautiful tangible presence, it is pure and it is real."

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I am sorry, Kathryn, for the loss of your son. I appreciate knowing a little about the things he loved, and of your love for him.

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I still haven’t found the words, indeed if there are words, for losing my son in June of 2023. All I know is that love is all that gets us through, and seeing the result of his love in his children helps me stand a little more on solid ground . Sending love xx

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Sharon, coming on a year without your son. I am sorry for your loss, and glad you have found footing in your grand children.

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Thank you for your kindness. It soothes the grief, more than you know.

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Janie, I thank you for sharing a bit of your son with us. I appreciate how these lovely traits help you to re-member.

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This is a beautiful re-membering ❤️

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Pádraig, Magnificent, indeed.

“. . . No more that chest of yours, puffed out with laughter

or a story told again, all filled with air and light,

a bird swollen with song. . .

oh glen, oh magnificent.”

During my daily morning jog, apparently alone yet hearing the “birds swollen with song” while being chilled by the tiny distant lights in the yonder high above.

WHERE, WHEN

Mom and dad

not yet

in this brisk

early morning sky

wandering about

in a new way

I suppose

like the remaining stars

seemingly

so close

flickering away

seeking

that once familiar

connection

as the shivering moment

leaves me on my way.

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Michael, thank you for sharing the experience you had of remembering your mom and dad.

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Thank you for sharing magnificent Glenn and your poem. I am remembering my dad, Andrew, and also the poet Humberto Ak’abal. I remember Ak’abal’s poem of birdsongs, and how my dad liked feeding seagulls at the beach. Until your story and this prompt for remembering, I had not connected the two, who I now see as quite similar. My dad was of Mexican, indigenous heritage, Humberto was of Guatemalan, K’iche’ heritage. My dad’s cultural heritage was sublimated, growing up in Jim Crow Texas (at the same time celebrated with the family’s return to Mexico City on the Southern Pacific Railroad each summer, for which his father, my grandfather worked- a connection which no longer exists). Humberto’s cultural identity was prominent and part and parcel of his tome of work. My dad was a tall, large man, Humberto was slight, somewhat frail. I met Humberto at a conference and kept a correspondence with him. So recalling both my dad and this poet, I am remembering sitting next to them. They both held quiet, thoughtful spaces. Both excellent listeners. Both a bit sad, laden with the lives that went before them. I’m grateful for this remembering and connection, which has always been there, but until today, not prominent in my mind. I am grateful for this gift… of time and distance from their passings, and also this space to conjure up beloved memories.

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What a gift you mentioning Ak'abal! I lived in Guatemala for a few years before coming to the US for grad school, and his poetry opened up a world of questions, wonder, sorrow, and joy for me. I later had the chance to interview him in his home in Totonicapán and was surprised by his depth, how humble and down to the earth he was, how he stood his ground, not allowing "fame" and "honors" detract him from denouncing racism (I'm referring here to when he refused to receive the Premio Nacional de Literatura Miguel Ángel Asturias, because it would have condoning Asturias' racism and Guatemala's). His poetry is exquisite and simple, I've taught it to first semester Spanish students as well as to advanced learners and it never fails to connect with people's hearts.

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I so appreciate the way you made and expressed the connection between your dad and the poet Humberto Ak’abal. Beautiful!

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After my dad died, I returned to Canada from England to be with my mom and brother. Looking out over the back yard from the deck, my eyes followed squirrels running along power lines - regular visitors. Then I saw something I’d never seen there or elsewhere: a blue jay. I knew it was my dad, and I surprise myself to admit that. He had been a painter, among many other talents, and each Christmas had painted his own card to print and send out - always a bird. My favourite one was the blue jay. I haven’t seen him again in the almost 5 years since, but I did see him then and it helped me.

In your haunting poem, it’s the “and you’re gone” at the end of line of observations which gets me. Yes, all these sights and sounds continue to surround us, and they are gone.

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I am looking out my dirty window this sober Sunday morn: Mother Rabbits guard their bunnies while rascal squirrels tightwalk atop the wrinkled grey fence under an arrangement of arias performed by the songbird symphony within my solo crab apple tree where there is one empty nest. Painstakingly built twig by twig for three peeping Chicks-- worm fed and warmed-- until it was time, time to fly away...

🕊My deepest sympathies to you. The loss of a Great Friend leaves a hole, unfillable.

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Your keen philosophical musings are brought to life by your poetic imagery.

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✍️Why thank you, Michael. What a vast compliment.

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If you go missing on any given Sunday morning Padraig, we will still hear your in-flexion and re-member your magnificent voice echoing here. Such a gift you are—-awakening our sensibilities. What a gorgeous tribute to Glenn.

I think of my sister who always listened to my heart and responded afterward. How I hope I gave back equally. How alone I feel now without her guidance and confidence nearby. Yesterday, when I lifted a small loose ball of blue yarn from my drawer that she used to knit baby blankets, the fibers smelled of the comfort her presence. I squeezed the yarn, wishing she was still here with me. It was soft and resilient as the touch of her hand and the small renewal of my self esteem that she always instilled through her credence and compassion. My sister loved butterflies. Soon after she died a Mourning Cloak arrived in the garden by my front porch. I had never seen one before or since. It stayed for over an hour.

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Thanks sharing your story and for asking for mine. 🙏

I grew up three blocks from the shores of Lake Michigan.

As an early riser I was always drawn to the glorious

waking of the sun over the water.

Often, I would intentionally walk or ride my bike

“out of the way” just to see this amazing spectacle

on my way to somewhere else.

Mostly, though, I’d make my way for it’s own sake.

My parents died in November 2021, mostly of old age,

but expedited by COVID’s machinations.

My dad was gone within two days of my arrival

and my mom died a week later.

Each morning on my way to the hospital,

(Yes, by miracles of a Known Source, I was able to visit.)

I intentionally went “out of my way”

to catch a glimpse of the sun’s beautiful offering.

The particular morning of the day my mom died,

I stopped to take a picture,

which now has become my screensaver of choice.

Remembering my parents, my DNA, in the wake of early

morning light is recognizing that they are still with me.

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Dear Padraig, thank you for your warm story about Glenn and who he was, as well as for your wonderful poem of him and birds and love.

My first real sponsor in AA, thirty plus years ago, was a warm, kind and generous man. I had to ask him for help. It was terrifying. Chris was a retired teacher with AIDS. We hiked with friends. Walked the trails at Rachel Carson near where he lived. Talked. We went to tons of AA meetings. We cried together while listening to Gorecki’s symphony the week before he went back in the hospital. Three times he went, three times I said goodbye. He so wanted to be sober for ten years. I had two. No drugs, no alcohol. My thinking told me we should smoke some dope to ease the discomfort. Maybe a couple of beers. He told me no. He was planning on dying a sober man. So I stayed sober too. He finally quit all his meds, felt better and got to go to Key West in February. He died the last day of his rental, typical. I was at a loss. I did what he taught me, went to another meeting. And for three years I put a medallion, 8, 9 and 10, in the crotch of a cemetery oak near his grave. He had no stone. Thank you Chris, I think of you still. Thank you Padraig, your weekly contact brings me joy.

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Thank you Pádraig for that lovely tribute to your friend. As it happens, I am reading it on the last morning of a trip to the place of my birth, my father's birth and my grandfather's birth in Missouri, USA. Looking at their gravestones (b. 1901, b. 1930) and thinking about my own to come one day (b. 1959), I think about my children (b. 1993, b. 1995) and their children (b. ????) and feel the long, magnificent line that connects us long before and long after we draw our first and last breaths.

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My father died in February and that time of year in Illinois is very raw and cold. There was a week between his death and his burial so I was staying with my sister & family. They went back to work and school, but I was in from out of town and had time. When dad was dying he had told me not to worry because he would be all around in nature watching out for us. During those cold days I walked or ran daily and a harrier appeared to follow me on my route. Swooping low, popping up over the hill and around the country corner as I made my way. My grief was sitting high in my chest and my feet were so heavy but that harrier brought me comfort.

Dad is still a bird for me - usually a hawk (one year a hummingbird). My running partners are used to me stopping while in full stride to look up and say hello when I see him on our route. My best friend says hello with me. It makes me happy to see him.

He was a naturalist, artist and all around complicated gentle man.

I think he is a goldfinch this year.

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Maybe, a different response to your prompt, Padraig.

It is your poem, your love and respect for your friend, Glen, that takes me into the woven threads, the tapestry of Nature. All these sightings, these references to various birds, so affectionate and thoughtful. How warmly you brought together birdlife and human life, cast us all where we So truly belong, together in this magnificent web of which we all are a part, an element of life’s gifts and bounty. Your words introduce me to myself, as well; one can feel safe, within your words, to feel one’s own tenderness, to feel gratitude for the amazing opportunity to be alive, to step up and perch, to puff up our own feathers, to strut about in our glorious diversity, and honor life by living. Your poem bears witness to life. I wish I could devote all my time to wandering this Earth, reciting your poem to everyone willing to pause, just long enough to listen, and be reminded of life’s love for us; dream on, I say, we would all put down our weapons of choice and declare a Cease-fire. We would prepare picnics and serve each other, see each other in all our distinct finery, and sing songs of harmony and community. 🏮

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Jun 9·edited Jun 9

Beautiful poem and beautiful friend Padraig......and the two words "scarlet sound" especially grabbed me. In this last week during a stretch of some especially difficult weeks I noticed a red winged blackbird singing her heart out. She was so loud and close that with the kitchen windows open I could not have a conversation with another human being there. She has appeared twice now when I have been struggling with something and my mother was part of my internal conversation. In only part jest I laughed to myself that she was trying to tell me something. My mother was no shrinking violet and since she died in 2019 I have felt her in my body and around me in more ways than I could ever have predicted. She was no shrinking violet and an unmatchable companion as we grew older together over the years.

A "scarlet sound" coming from a red winged blackbird could easily be her afterlife embodiment. I keep listening for her to come back. I hope to figure out what she's trying to tell me.

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I believe in messages from nature... You can try to look up red winged blackbird symbolism to see if something jumps out at you

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