Sometimes chance is weird but kind,
as when I am walking with Andrea by chance
and grief escapes from the Home,
sneaks up behind me,
an old woman with milky eyes.
Oh, look. She’s got her bag of gruesome memories,
she’s clamped her crooked fingers
around my neck,
popped the cork of my unruly mouth:

After all these years I know just what not to do,
when grief shows up out of the blue
eyes of a little boy laughing,
doppelganger in a stroller
not fall at his feet,
not whisper my son’s name and weep.
Better his hovering mother think me rude
than to finish my sentence,
or explain that silken blond hair can turn to straw
toddler eyes can go dark,
death can come
even to a boy like that
have to say I’m sorry to ruin your day
when I’m not,
not really.

Sometimes chance is weird but kind,
as when by chance I am walking with Andrea
whose son lies next to mine,
grave companions, you might say
clean picked bones shaped like two little boys,
two tiny metacarpals touching,
twin tibia, fibula,
sacral bones lying still
in their adjacent tombs,
beneath their marble stones.

And sometimes grief is kind
as when Andrea takes my hand,
and yanks me away before I grow roots,
and grief can only hobble along behind us, trying to keep up.
Larry would have been thirty one, Andrea whispers,
Michael would have been eighteen, I say.
Toddlers into men.
Even the gods of imagination cannot make that leap.
I do not tell Andrea that sometimes
those gods animate our boys,
and they rise from the dead,
pink-cheeked, to play together
next to the tree in the cool air,
no affront to the blue sky,
grass, insects,

Sometimes I think I liked it better
when grief was young and enthusiastic,
weighed four thousand pounds,
screamed and screeched like a carnival troll,
slashed at my skin with its long claws,
hissed like the villain in a silent movie.
At least I knew where grief was then,
it didn’t shuffle and creep up behind me
like an old woman with clouded eyes
begging for attention and pity,
offering only pathos
with her bag of hoary stuff–
her milky tubes,
pumping machines,
white coats
switching eyes
stripped bones

Fran Dorf can be reached through her website,

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Fran Dorf

Fran Dorf, MA, MSW, is a poet, essayist, and author of three acclaimed novels, including Saving Elijah (Putnam), which was inspired by the 1994 death of Fran's son, Michael. Fran blogs on life, grief, culture, arts, etc. at and is currently working on a memoir of survival stories. Fran is also a psychotherapist and conducts “write to heal” workshops to help people cope with grief, loss, illness, and trauma. In 1999, Fran and her husband, Bob, started Jumpstart, an educational program for toddlers with special needs in their small city. Fran appeared on the radio show “Healing the Grieving Heart” with Dr. Gloria & Dr. Heidi Horsley to discuss “Writing to Heal.” To hear Fran being interviewed on this show, click on the following link:

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