I can’t bear to turn on the news and see the small coffins. Or read about the fallen hero teachers. It’s devastating, unspeakable. But, I do think about them … as my dog plays with the kindergarteners at the bus stop, as I shop in the toy store for Christmas gifts, as I hug my nephews and nieces. My heart aches for the families going through all the funerals this week.
Reading poetry is what I do when my own words fail me. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa wrote “Rock Me Mercy” in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. You can hear him read it via NPR. California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera wrote “Little Ones We Carry You.” Herrera is also creating a Unity Poetry Wall in Newtown and accepting poetry submissions for via email firstname.lastname@example.org or his Facebook page.
One of the poems I’ve found most comforting in times of grief is Christina Rossetti’s “Remember.” Below, I’ve included “1914 IV. The Dead,” by Rupert Brooke. Written during World War I, the poem refers to slightly older children—young boys, young men—lost in war. Still, it evokes that feeling of lost promise and lost innocence. “All this is ended.”
1914 IV. The Dead, by Rupert Brooke
These hearts were woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow, swift to mirth.
The years had given them kindness. Dawn was theirs,
And sunset, and the colours of the earth.
These had seen movement, and heard music; known
Slumber and waking; loved; gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder; sat alone;
Touched flowers and furs and cheeks. All this is ended.
There are waters blown by changing winds to laughter
And lit by the rich skies, all day. And after,
Frost, with a gesture, stays the waves that dance
And wandering loveliness. He leaves a white
Unbroken glory, a gathered radiance,
A width, a shining peace, under the night.