The things we do not say #poetry #poem

A life full of the things we do not say:
‘He passed’
‘We lost her’
‘The deceased’
The Dead. Joyce wasn’t afraid to say it:
Why are we?
We were born into a world looking the other way:
death has been sanitised, a skeleton
in the closet, the white elephant in the room,
a roomful of the things we do not say.

Time past, life was lived arm-in-arm with death
it was so common, we had to acknowledge it for what it is:
a part of life, a skeleton-companion,
antimatter twin
willing us into and out of existence. 
we painted danse macabre on the walls of churches,
invited death to dinner though
we hoped he would not come:
a worldful of the things we do not say.

The millions of pandemic dead
long-covid sufferers, the mentally ill
those with invisible illnesses,
the dying.
What of the dying?
Those already passed into the vale, still journeying?
We push them out of sight,
pretend they do not exist when we know,
we are all part of this sleepwalking tribe:
a race cursed by the things we do not say.

© Experimentsinfiction 2021, All Rights Reserved

Written for Earthweal

For this week’s challenge, Brendan has asked us to do the following:

For this challenge, write about the unsayable. Describe the unsayable nature of the pandemic we are still fighting our way through. Is it the event which is best known or seen by its shadows and ghosts? What tools in the poetic repertoire are there for describing and naming and calibrating it? How is it akin to the slow but tidally monstrous impunity of climate change? Where does it differ? Are there other invisibilities to which it is akin, from digital mayhem to grief to galactic waves? Are there songs for the dead? How has the future landscape changed?

The photograph is of a danse macabre from Hrastovlje church, Slovenia.

42 thoughts on “The things we do not say #poetry #poem

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      1. Well it was ‘the unsayable,’ with particular reference to the covid dead. But I often think about death being taboo and how that is both ridiculous and damaging…

      2. I find it hard to talk about my mother’s death, for example, not because it upsets me but because it makes other people embarrassed. It would be a lot healthier if it were ‘acceptable’ to talk about these things.

      3. I totally get it. I’m not over my father’s death, and having an outlet to express my thoughts and feelings is the reason I returned to blogging.

      4. I think that was a great idea. I’m still not over my mother’s death but occasionally it helps to write about it.

  1. You are so right Ingrid. I don’t avoid the subject any more. It needs to come out of the closet. I hope this comment posts this timenlol

  2. So true, Ingrid. I agree with the comments above. I also love that danse macabre image from the church–particularly that strutting, waving skeleton.

  3. These lines remind me of some of the medieval artists and writers:
    ‘Time past, life was lived arm-in-arm with death
    it was so common, we had to acknowledge it for what it is:
    a part of life, a skeleton-companion,
    antimatter twin
    willing us into and out of existence.
    we painted danse macabre on the walls of churches,
    invited death to dinner though
    we hoped he would not come:
    a worldful of the things we do not say.’
    Stunning writing, Ingrid!

  4. Birth and death are the only certainties in our life. I once bought a card that said We are just walking each other home. I loved the sentiment but couldn’t send it to a person bereaved as it didn’t seem compassionate. Love the words and have kept it. So true.

  5. Yes, too often we conceal what is in our being. Death is or constant companion, yet we fear it and thus refrain from confronting it. Love your poetic thoughts here.

  6. Oh yes. We are in denial big-time. Your two closing lines are amazing. Yes, we are. You have summed us up exactly.

  7. We have trouble speaking of bodily functions in general–and death packs them all into a dense dance. Disablement, old age…I think it’s true that humans used to see life and death together, intimately, every day. Now we hide it away, sanitize it, even within our own families. We are estranged from nature, that relies on death to replenish life. Beautifully said. (K)

  8. “death has been sanitised, a skeleton
    in the closet, the white elephant in the room,
    a roomful of the things we do not say.”
    I couldn’t agree more, Ingrid. A lot of us have exited from formal religion for good reasons, but it leaves us stranded when it comes to the subject of death.
    JIM

  9. This is a very good poem. Your plain speaking, matter-of-fact delivery gives your words great depth and veracity. It makes for compelling reading.

  10. Death is an unsayable for poetry, as are the dead, ghosts, life’s “antimatter twin” and the “curse” of all “”we do not say.” The invisible which dances before oblivion. What do these envoys tell us? That’s for next poems to tell us. – Brendan

  11. this is so well written Ingrid as i continue to learn of more neighbors 40 and 60 “passing, dead, gone, to ashes, never to be seen again as we knew them” just when I think we are making headway. xoxoxo💖💖💖

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