Poem of the Day, April 16: River Burial, Cathy Sosnowksy

Holding On: Poems for Alex is a collection of poems for a teenage son who died. It is prefaced by an eloquent prose account of the author’s personal grief journey. Written eight years after the accidental death of her only birth child, this collection describes her initial suicidal despair and the resources she called on for survival: her community of friends and family, the grief journeys of others, literary and religious history, nature, The Compassionate Friends (an international self help group for bereaved parents), and the act of writing itself.

Cathy Sosnowsky grew up and studied in Vancouver, BC, and went on to teach at the University of British Columbia and at Langara College. Her specialty was English literature, but she was also instrumental in establishing courses in Film Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies. She lives with her husband Woldy in West Vancouver, close to the water their son loved.


River Burial

We needed an Indian
to scatter the ashes.
Our own black-robed priest,
the church and the coffin
oppressed his light spirit.

We needed the river,
the clean cedar branches,
a drum with a heartbeat,
ochre paint for the eye
on the Never-Sink kayak

overturned now and pierced
(an eye for the fish
keeps them safe from the dead).

To the sounds of the drum
and the screeching of eagles,
we let our son go,
gave him back to the river
whose constant commotion

had quickened his soul.
We needed the Shaman
slow moving      deep seeing
to transform the ashes:

boy into man, man into river.
Now his ashes are flowing
through all our world.

-Cathy Sosnowsky

(c)in the name of the poet or assigns. Used for educational purposes and for the promotion of the poet and personal growth of the reader.

Journal Prompt:

Write about a time when you created or participated in a ritual for healing.

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