Issue 23, The Fourth Sign of Zodiac

On processing grief

Hi friends,

The last few weeks have been a struggle as covid has ravaged my home country of India. My sister who works in a hospital and is recovering from covid herself spends her entire days trying to find plasma donors, hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and ultimately crematorium spots through her social media following. The politicians continue their election campaigns gaslighting an entire country. Today one of father’s closest friends passed away while waiting for a hospital bed. When he heard, he was driving back from having secured another oxygen cylinder for him.

I tell you this because I have no solace to offer you with this issue of Found Poems, the only way out of grief is through it. I want to share this Mary Oliver poem that has been ringing in my mind all day as I try my hardest to not give into despair and nihilism. How am I supposed to go back to work on Monday and pretend that pixels matter, I keep thinking. And then I think of Mary Oliver’s words - “Let me be urgent as a knife” - reminding us that we must be urgent with the time we have.

The Fourth Sign of Zodiac

by Mary Oliver

Why should I have been surprised?
Hunters walk the forest
without a sound.
The hunter, strapped to his rifle,
the fox on his feet of silk,
the serpent on his empire of muscles—
all move in a stillness,
hungry, careful, intent.
Just as the cancer
entered the forest of my body,
without a sound.

The question is,
what will it be like
after the last day?
Will I float
into the sky
or will I fray
within the earth or a river—
remembering nothing?
How desperate I would be
if I couldn’t remember
the sun rising, if I couldn’t
remember trees, rivers; if I couldn’t
even remember, beloved,
your beloved name.

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

so why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.

Late yesterday afternoon, in the heat,
all the fragile blue flowers in bloom
in the shrubs in the yard next door had
tumbled from the shrubs and lay
wrinkled and fading in the grass. But
this morning the shrubs were full of
the blue flowers again. There wasn’t
a single one on the grass. How, I
wondered, did they roll back up to
the branches, that fiercely wanting,
as we all do, just a little more of

If you find yourself moved and able to, please consider donating to one of these organisations for COVID relief in India.

Breathe India

Transgender Equity and Empowerment Trust

Khalsa Aid

Help Now

India Zakat

Ongoing fundraisers for Mutual Aid