Learning To Mourn by Robert Winner
I’m an inexperienced mourner
I don’t even know how to begin
to cry out like that old man
wailing in the next hospital room—
oi vay, oi vay—his two sounds
beating against the wall.
He makes me squirm
but I get his message better than my own.
How can I free myself like him?
How can I know my place as he does,
know how little I am?
How can I mourn, the cheep of a trapped bird
crying out violent sorrow?
Old man, teach me.
Help me reach the bowels of my cry
and bring it up, coarse, rasping.
Teach me to be disgusting.
Help me to exile myself from all
the populations of eyes and ears.
Teach me to live in that country
where no one else is, where I can
bash to pieces my good breeding,
my priests and pillars
—no illusions, the self wiped out,
unable to see or hear or understand.
Old man—lying in your shit—
you’ve let the angel of death from your mouth.
One minute of your unforgiving protest
is like true song: reckless, fatal singing,
song that is not victorious, not even consoling,
merely a sound you have to make.
Consolation by Wisława Szymborska
They say he read novels to relax,
But only certain kinds:
nothing that ended unhappily.
If anything like that turned up,
enraged, he flung the book into the fire.
True or not,
I’m ready to believe it.
Scanning in his mind so many times and places,
he’d had enough of dying species,
the triumphs of the strong over the weak,
the endless struggles to survive,
all doomed sooner or later.
He’d earned the right to happy endings,
at least in fiction
with its diminutions.
Hence the indispensable
the lovers reunited, the families reconciled,
the doubts dispelled, fidelity rewarded,
fortunes regained, treasures uncovered,
stiff-necked neighbors mending their ways,
good names restored, greed daunted,
old maids married off to worthy parsons,
troublemakers banished to other hemispheres,
forgers of documents tossed down the stairs,
seducers scurrying to the altar,
orphans sheltered, widows comforted,
pride humbled, wounds healed over,
prodigal sons summoned home,
cups of sorrow thrown into the ocean,
hankies drenched with tears of reconciliation,
general merriment and celebration,
and the dog Fido,
gone astray in the first chapter,
turns up barking gladly
in the last.