April Poet Profiles: Kelsi Hasden

I’m excited to offer you the work of my friend and colleague Kelsi Hasden. Kelsi writes poetry on life. Love life, rage life, race life, gender life, and experiencing life. She is an adjunct instructor in Rhetoric and Composition in Jacksonville, Fl, and she adopts stray cats in her neighborhood. She has published in Bridge Eight magazine, worked as a managing editor for Fiction Fix, and writes and edits articles for Metro Jacksonville. Her poems below pivot on a common theme:

Grandparents

1.
She told me they rolled you over
and then you took your last breath.
They looked at you in shock
in spite of knowing
that your time was drawing near.
I cried for over an hour
my face scrunched
in such anguish
that my forehead cramped.
I couldn’t get all the sobs out
the torrent of tears
wouldn’t cease.
At one point
I couldn’t tell
if I was crying
or laughing.

My tears weren’t falling
because you were so recently gone,
they fell because you were no longer
the you I had known in my childhood,
you hadn’t been for years,
but now that change was permanent
-an irrefutable fact-
you weren’t the pillar
that held up so many memories,
that carried so many years.
Old age had gathered you up in his fingers,
causing me to mourn your loss
years ago.

She told me that you’re in a better place
that you aren’t suffering anymore
but I can’t get my head
wrapped around the fact
that you’re still gone,
you’re just
away –
as though you simply stood up
and walked out the front door.

2.
silence all the telephones,
the televisions, the announcements,
stop all the callers,
hold your questions.
He is dead.
He is dead.
I see it everywhere
on license plates, billboard signs,
and in cloud formations.
The grass is quite a bit browner,
the air a bit drier.
His death has halted everything.
I can still feel his touch
I can still see his smile
I remember his voice
and it makes me shudder,
shudder.

Granddaddy’s Poem

Together we sat watching the casket
    Of our estranged grandfather.
He was very much alive
    in our memories and our tears;
      the smoky scent of his living room,
      the dead grass in his garden,
      his broken fence,
      how quiet his laugh was compared to mine, dad’s, the family’s.
Our mourning was alive and present.

The Honor Guard performed
    A Twenty One Gun Salute.
Each of our cousins received a shell casing
    that was handed to them
     by white gloved hands
    as did our father and his siblings.

We two, were the only immediate family
  who did not receive a spent shell
We did not have 
a hunk of golden metal
to hold in our hand
    to soften our sadness

Instead
we sat off alone
and whispered
childhood memories
as young girls with their grandfather.

Open Letter

Most people try in vain to put words to loss. Even as I sit here, with the fresh urge to write this post making my fingertips itch, I am staring at a blank screen. I have a date, a title, a few lines.

I believe that this wordlessness marks our most intimate experiences—sensations born in a wordless moment defy expression on the page. My urge to write this letter came from a burst of sorrow that I did not expect. It’s an old grief, but I know its shape now; it comes in sudden storms.

In a week, I’ll be turning 28. And as I sat in front of my computer, checking email and eating Greek yogurt, I imagined how I would celebrate. But my mind found a snag and it tugged—a long and powerful string connecting me to the friend that won’t be there.

Christina died in July 2012, just weeks before I started teaching my first writing courses. When I knew she was sick, I wrote a tribute to her—to the memories we’d made. She read it and loved it. Since then I’ve written her letters, some public, some private. Now that the grief is three years old, I think I understand it a little more—even if I can’t predict when it will find me.

This is my open letter to grief and everyone it connects. I am writing also for the part of myself that needs this letter.

Grief comes from my emersion in a concrete world. Everyone says that Christina is always with me, that I can still feel her spirit. But I have a body that desperately misses her physical presence—the sound of her voice, the clicks of her power chair, the suddenness of her laugh. Replaying these memories is painful because I know I’m replaying them; I know that my supply is finite. I want more from her.

It is not enough to say that I miss her or that she is still with me. I believe that grief wakes us up to the uselessness of words. No sentence can save me from this deep sorrow.

And I don’t think writing is meant to save me. I can’t write to escape because there is no escape. I write to walk around my grief, to take its coat, to comprehend it. My letters form a silhouette, but even as they land here, the feelings change.

I write to keep pace, to show that I won’t be swept away or left behind.