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from Sounding, by Barry Marks

PHANTOM LIMB 

You are not here 
but I feel you. 

That pretty much says it all. 
Like hearing a cry 
after the fall 
and seeing only an empty place. 

Like hearing after music 
or seeing the sun 
within one’s eyes, 
knowing beyond 
the sense’s lies 
is knowing a lot 
and knowing not. 

I could say 
                   AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY 
each reader would say
                           EVER 
                                   AFTER. 

You, daughter, 
are not here— 
you are        there 
where ever 
there           is 

not here, I know, but 
where— 
I do not know. 

I do not know if 
or how much 
you hurt 

just as I did not know 
that you hurt so 
many times. 

I did not know; 
how can any 
father brother lover other 
know how another 
hurts? 

Still, some phantom of pain insists: 
She hurt 
like you hurt 
when you were hurt 
like you were. 

I felt so much for you 
but I could not feel for you, 
to keep you 

from having to feel the hurt 
of a phantom father, 
the horror in that last instant 
when I cannot know what you felt 
no matter how hard I try to punish myself; 

and I want to die for you 
as I want to die for you 
but I cannot, I only feel for you 

in the darkness that 
will heal with time 
but never grow back; 
it is like I have lost 
part of myself, 

leaving only pain. 

It is like that. 

 

AND IT IS LIKE THIS 
For Joe, Lee, and too many others 

Grief has its own architecture, 
sorrow its own physics, 
the pain of loss, a set of principles 
unlike any other. 

It’s as if there were a world 
where magic is science and words 
are the engine of chemistry: 
this combination makes gold out of iron, 
that one brings the rain and these words, 
spoken in cadence, open doors 

and the doors of grief line the halls 
bisecting the brain. 
Open one door and step into darkness 
so heavy it swallows all light, 
the next door sucks you in and down, 
down until you bottom in a bottle or 
between alien sheets: 

Door of Fantasy. 
Door of Memory. 
Doors of Music, Disney, Favorite Foods— 
  suspension of words that once 
made Happy Birthday 
what it was. 
Door of Faith. 

Listen. You will know you have free-fallen 
into that other world when every loss, 
however trivial, returns you to the great loss. 
When you cannot remember 
and cannot forget 
the face,

when your dreams are release 
and waking is torture. 

Pilgrim, Novice, Apprentice to the Sorcerer of Sorrow, 
as you are so was I, 
as I am so shall you be.
 

Seek solace, answers, peace— 
you will find only pain; 
if you avoid 
all doors, 
you will live in a lightless hall of mirrors. 

 

FINDING YOU 
Lauren, 2010 

…was sudden as a forest flower, 
as the instant of waking, 
as the moment a man first notices 
that the seasons have changed 
or that he is in love. 

Finding you was finding myself. 

When the light shines, 
when the music stops, 
when life is no longer 
a script written 
for another actor, 
things become clear 
and a father can learn. 

Finding you was finding myself in you 
and you in me 
when I had given up looking 
for either of us. 

 

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