HIRSCH: I was completely shocked when Gabriel died and I tried to go back to work after a while and I couldn’t really function at work and so in order to alleviate my grief I began to write a document in which I wrote down everything I could remember about Gabriel. I suddenly became desperate that I would forget things because I’d lost him so suddenly, so completely. It all was sort of a blur and I wanted to remember and I began to talk to my partner, to my ex-wife, to my sisters, to my mother, to Gabriel’s friends and every day I went to a coffee shop and I basically tried to tell the story of Gabriel’s life….
GREENE: You’ve said though that poetry is not a protection against grief.
HIRSCH: On the contrary, poetry takes courage because you have to face things and you try to articulate how you feel. I don’t like the whole language of healing which seems to me so false. As soon as something happens to us in America everyone begins talking about healing, but before you heal you have to mourn and I found that poetry doesn’t shield you from grief but it does give you an expression of that grief. And trying to express it, trying to articulate it gave me something to do with my grief…..
GREENE: Talking about – mourning and grief it makes me want to hear another passage from your poem. It’s on page 73, and it starts with, I did not know the work…..
HIRSCH: (Reading) I did not know the work of mourning is like carrying a bag of cement up a mountain at night. The mountaintop is not in sight, because there is no mountaintop. Poor Sisyphus Greif. I did not know I would struggle through a ragged underbrush without an upward path. Because there is no path, there is only a blunt rock with a river to fall into and time with its medieval chambers. Time with its jagged edges and blunt instruments. I did not know the work of mourning is a laborer in the dark we carry inside ourselves. Though sometimes when I sleep I’m with him again and then I wake. Poor Sisyphus Greif. I’m not ready for your heaviness cemented to my body. Look closely and you will see almost everyone carrying bags of cement on their shoulders. That’s why it takes courage to get out of bed in the morning and climb into the day.