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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

There Are No Words For This

By Melissa Zehner, LPC, Professional Psychotherapist,

and Mindfulness-Meditation Practitioner

I promised myself I would finish this poem within my next birthday year and with only 4 days left before my self-imposed deadline, I’ve finally finished. That’s cutting it close, I know. It only took nine years to complete. Yes, that’s right, I said years, not days, and not months. Nine years to get this right, to have it convey what I wanted it to say, about Her.

Writing poetry is something that usually happens quickly, for me anyhow. Usually a line gets stuck in my head. I recite it again and again until a rhythm forms and then the words follow. Sometimes the poem writes itself within a few minutes. These poems I consider gifts. It’s as if a bird came to sit on my shoulder, whispered it into my ear, and I had absolutely nothing to do with it’s becoming. No work, no toiling, no thinking. Pure harmony. Other times it takes a few days of coming back and tinkering with the lines until the right words connect to the rhythm. With this poem though, the lines kept getting stuck. They never drifted away completely though and every time I would think of Her, the lines resurfaced; endlessly dancing around my thoughts but unable to slip into their rightful rhythmic place. The process of coming back to this poem again and again, year after year, and never getting it right, made me question (on many occasions) whether it could ever become anything at all. But it had to, it had to…because it was about Her.

So why, you might wonder, was this poem so different and why would I persist for so many years when no fruit would bear? Because this poem is about loss and putting words to loss is an incredibly difficult thing to do. You might even say, an impossible thing to do. How do you capture in words your love for someone and your unbearable grief when that person is gone? When I began writing this poem nine years ago, the act was a desperate attempt to capture the obligation I felt to walk my dearest childhood friend through her final step. We took all of our beginning steps together and this was something I had to do. Not something I wanted to do at all but I had to do it for Her, and for us. I think what I was feeling then, is a primordial human experience- seeing your loved one through to the end. This ritual is an incredibly significant and defining characteristic of the human race. We must honor our loved ones when they have gone.

When I made this vow silently to myself nearly one year ago, I had no idea the amount of loss that would be coming. No idea that these loses would be held in silence without the proper honorary rituals. No long, penetrating stares into the eyes of others. No physical embraces or holding of hands. No speeches where the weeping orator can look around the room and with each warming smile, gain the courage to continue. There are no words that can replace the tangible, the tactile, the sensory manifestation of love and connection. We are all doing our best here, but it will never capture the procession of seeing it through. Yet, somehow, we must find new ways of reaching round to one another, vowing to bring our greatest truth to the surface, as we hold an ethereal circle with which to honor our loved ones. Our love for them is worth at least this much and they, of course, are worth so much more. How exactly we do this though, I do not know… I wish I had more words here to offer- how one can handle loss in such a time- but the truth is, I don’t. I only have the words that are worthy enough to capture the love and grief that I hold for Her.

For Karen

Bottled Honey-Suckle Dew

I am reminded of you

2 bare-foot girls

we were then

Climbing from tree branch to tree branch

You, following from behind

pushing me farther and farther ahead

in time

And now here I am

The stories of our childhood

are mine alone to bear

But can they exist without

your sweet remembrance?

It’s like falling silently into oblivion

Bottled Honey-Suckle Dew

I disappear with you

Come Love, Take my hand

Walk with me over the trestle bridge

while we heed the murmuring of memories

long since passed

Be with me one last time

Sink into me and never let me go

Bottled Honey-Suckle Dew

I’ll take care of you

Photograph by George Ross

“An artist, a visionary, a beautiful soul,

who experienced the world through continual wonder and joy”

George was a Rutherford resident who we lost on March 30th from COVID-19

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