Grief’s Surgery

Grief’s Surgery

This week’s poem is “Into the Hour” by Elizabeth Jennings, and I have chosen it because it is a poem about remembrance but also about the rebirth of hope.

… Grief’s surgery is over and I wear
The scar of my remorse and of my feeling.

Elizabeth Jennings (1926—2001)

Poem 242. Into the Hour

I have come into the hour of a white feeling.
… Grief’s surgery is over and I wear
The scar of my remorse and of my feeling.

I have come into a sudden sunlit hour
When ghosts are scared to corners. I have come
Into the time when grief begins to flower

Into a new love. It had filled my room
Long before I recognized it. Now
I speak its name. Grief finds its good way home.

The apple-blossom’s handsome on the bough
And Paradise spreads round. I touch its grass.
I want to celebrate but don’t know how.

I need not speak though everyone I pass
Stares at me kindly. I would put my hand
Into their hands. Now I have lost my loss

In some way I may later understand.
I hear the singing of the summer grass.
And love, I find, has no considered end,

Nor is it subject to the wilderness
Which follows death. I am not traitor to
A person or a memory. I trace

Behind that love another which is running
Around, ahead. I need not ask its meaning.

In this poem, Elizabeth Jennings voices the feelings of one who has passed through a period of grieving and now senses that the time is right to leave behind their regret and sorrow and find another to share their lives.

She starts with the sensation of having recovered from an operation—I imagine the “white feeling” is like the impression one gets when waking in a hospital bed—and the room seems bright enough to banish the ghosts from the past. Her grief is transformed into love for a new person, almost without her realising it, and she speaks the word as if bewitched, appreciating the blossom on the trees in the orchard and the feeling of the grass and wanting to celebrate.

She feels that passers-by wish her well and wants to thank them for their kindness; she finds her senses sharpened now that the dullness of sorrow has been expelled and she hears the grass moving in the summer breeze. She has realised that love does not end with death and is not subject to the desolation brought by death: loving another will not be a betrayal of her former love but a different thing that co-exists and complements it.

I like this poem because I can understand the feelings Jennings expresses and because the words she chose are really apt: “grief’s surgery”, “ghosts are scared to corners”, “I have lost my loss”. It is a shame that there are no performances to be found online.