category: Poetry

Unfurling: A Poem about Grief and Hope

By Rachael Keefe

Sometimes grief feels heavy and relief can come unexpectedly.

The woods reflect my grief today
gray bare branches contrast
against a cloudy, vaguely blue sky
last year’s pine needles
a pale brown carpet underfoot
further along
mud sucks at my feet as I walk the dog
he on four legs, me on three
just so roots and loose rocks don’t
bring my face too close
to that dark, wet mud

Along the worn path
out on the pond
filled with broken
used up cattails
a red winged black bird challenges
every creature who gets too close
screeching out warnings
and territorial claims

A pair of Cooper’s Hawks busily
build their nest until something
moves and they dive
down to the forest floor
causing a ruckus, sending
smaller birds flying up
with raucous shouts of their own

Breathing heavily up a hill
something in me relaxes it’s painful grip
making room for an awareness
of new life lifting
the drabness of winter
carrying it away
on a pine-scented breeze

The branches I thought were bare
in my renewed perception
are covered in the soft
yellow-green of unfurling leaves
the cold mud warms in the sun
giving way to tiny sprouts
of weeds, flowers, and fern
reaching out,
collecting sunlight

A deer startles me,
she raises her head
we are close enough to touch
even the dog is still
breathing quick and quivering
deer and human
our eyes meet
her’s earth brown, mine ocean blue
for a moment we are one
I wonder about her grief
until she bounds away
after a spotted fawn I hadn’t seen

The burden I carried
wrapped tightly
hidden in secret places
my heart picks up
the thrumming of the woods
not barren, not dormant
what was heavy
becomes empty husks
in the unfurling of my soul

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About Rachael Keefe

Rachael is an author, a pastor, a teacher, and a poet. Her latest book (The Lifesaving Church - Chalice Press) is on faith and suicide prevention. She is currently the pastor of Living Table UCC in Minneapolis, and has launched a spiritual direction practice.

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