Volume 12 • Number 2 • Fall - Winter 2020

Robert Vivian

Impossible Grief

A Covid anthem

Impossible grief comes of a snowstorm and a blizzard of butterflies in late July turning moth-ward to the sun as cloth and burning become a whole new prophecy, impossible impala of grief in this leap away life knows not just what to do and how to speak it, pure howl and gibberish from the depths of one’s bowels in the face of the verb to be and impossible, impregnable grief—How shall I hold it? How shall I proclaim it or does it proclaim me, my least iota of utterance down to the fervent recitation of a last-minute prayer? Impregnable grief impossible to name (So make art of it), impossible to fathom for we are plunging down into the plumb bob center of reckoning even now—call it windblown, call it starburst, call it madcap, aftermath, ever quaking asunder in the wake of George Floyd’s murder—and impossible, impresario of grief says, Be thou a grooved force, be thou a human weather vane and barometer, I am a worn human mask straining at the seams, I cross an I and dot a T, I fall down Moses a 1,000 times in a paisley face covering Tina made just for me so that I am the bandit of my own reckless fate (Make love of it), and impossible, impolitic grief flit-most to a hummingbird and blurring wings divine bruising the always sacred air, impossible, impoverishment of grief turning me into an almost holy fool and restless near-do-well on the verge on the verge of becoming I know not who or what within (Make truth of it, turn the shells of a semiautomatic weapon into a little girl’s dolls), brink of a sneeze in droplets I hope are devoid of Covid-19 though my own human mist is breaking up with regret, impossible, imponderable grief turning somehow now miraculously into pity, into joy, into impossible, impervious praise whose grief produces a rainstorm, a downpour and flowing forth of these most righteous and bounteous tears (Make love of it again, make a home made dance floor), impossible, impetuous and pent-up grief I like Arseny burn at the feast until the sockets of my heels become smoking nobs, actual hubs of raw and feeling electromagnetic doorways, impossible, intractable grief slipping into the N’s now through my fingers like grains of sand or dust so fine you can breathe and whisper the whole earth and every one who has ever died, the horn of this nation’s plenty becoming less so dropping through radical space, via negativa and the only apophathic way, the void episodes I was subject to growing up on the plains of Nebraska so thunderheads of grief and lighting up sheets of Emily’s poems, cyclones turning clockwise in the impossible, imposing distance we all are destined to fall through, reach out to, not understand only wonder, wonder, wonder again, a child’s grief as vast as the sky and horizon-beckoning, impossible imprimatur of grief turning to questions that can’t be answered—Does a toothbrush care what holder it’s in? Why does Mary Magdalen turn away in Christ’s tomb from the empty space where his body once lay? Are you ready to get together in person or will you hold closer now to screens?—and impossible, impromptu of grief teach us how to gather and give away what petals we may and buds and blossoms, little leaves and sprigs of compassion and praise, a few words and gestures of encouragement, opening a door for someone with the crook of our elbow, blowing a kiss through a window or daring to shine our human faces again naked in the open air and a hundred feet away from another where the sun lights up the lonely miles between us, uniting us by the threads of an impossible chant like this one.

RV's latest book is All I Feel Is Rivers, just published with the Univ. of Nebraska Press.