This month’s poem honors the November anniversary date of my dear friends Vanessa (a Journalverse member!) and Robb Jackson. Both English/writing professors, I met them when Robb, an award-winning poet, studied poetry therapy with me and became a brilliant facilitator of therapeutic writing, using poetry and journals in his service work with immigrants, prisoners, the chronically mentally ill, those in court-ordered drug/alcohol rehab programs, at-risk youth. Vanessa is also a writer, focusing on short stories and novels. Since Robb’s sudden death in 2013 she has turned to poetry.
Over the past two years, Vanessa has worked through her complex grief process by writing and perfecting a set of poems that became a manuscript, Grief Road. The collection is an extended meditation on the experience of her unexpected widowhood, weaving poems about relationship and loss and, in a stunning title poem, the wild uncharted territory of the grief road. The poems are characterized by landscapes and habitats so vividly drawn that I can hear the grackles in the bracken and smell the softly rotting leaves in the glen.
Vanessa has just shared the excellent news that Grief Road has been accepted for publication in her native England, where she has returned after 30 years in the US with Robb.
The following poem opens the collection.
The judge said, “May God add His blessing
and keep you to fulfill your covenant
from this day forth.” He shook our hands
and there it was. We were married.
We left his solemn office, silent, dazed,
and went across the road to McDonald’s
where we ordered two quarter-pounders
with fries to go. I laid my left hand on
the counter, the silver ’round my finger
glitteringly new. I wanted everyone there
to see and feel as amazed as I, as shining.
In our overloaded Datsun, we headed south
for Portsmouth, Ohio. Geese veed the sky
under the low November sun, and the road
flashed golden past us. We switched on
the cassette player – Purcell’s Glad Tidings
with that impossible bass, from whose depths
the trebles burst up into sudden glorious joy.
We stole glances and smiles, beginning to believe
as we listened, dipping our fries in ketchup.
–Vanessa Furse Jackson, from the forthcoming Grief Road
(c) material used with permission
- The original title of this poem was Robb and Vanessa’s actual wedding date — written in the European style of day-month-year. Choose a significant date in your life: your wedding, a birth, a death, an anniversary of sobriety, et al. Title a write or poem with that date, and let yourself tell the story. Focus on details.
- Write about a time when something profound and life-changing was happening in a perfectly ordinary environment.
- Write about a time when you looked and felt “amazed…. shining.”
- Start a write with “And there it was.”