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,
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.
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