Gratitude as an Antidote to Grief

Peony Open to Sun, by MDMikus Copyright 2016

Peony Open to Sun by MDMikus Copyright 2016

For 24 years I’ve taken voice lessons. Singing is part of it, of course, with a focus on recovery of my true full voice. But sometimes it’s about life lessons, releasing what’s in the way of the voice expressing. It’s about self-acceptance and stilling the harsh inner critic. It’s about letting go of control and setting out a premise, an intention to sing full out, and see what happens. It has also become about performance practice: my ability to deliver my poems and songs in the most powerful and effective way possible. To learn not to take up all the emotional space for some dramatic effect, but to be fully present and allow the listener to have their own emotional response, to feel what they need to feel.

My gifted voice teacher, and long-time friend, is Kip Snyder. He was the former music and artistic director of the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus during the peak of the AIDS epidemic. He knows about grieving. From the beginning of my writing poetry (and songs) 20 years ago, I brought them to my lessons and Kip treated it like this was totally normal. His deep listening and easy acceptance was crucial to encouraging the baby steps that lead to my own acceptance of being a poet. We’ve worked together through multiple sclerosis, multiple cancers, heart disease, hernia repairs, kidney stones and grief for many reasons, as well as laughter and joy, the fullness of life.

Months ago, to get ready to record poems from my latest book, Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine, I began reading aloud 3 to 6 poems per lesson, starting at the beginning of the book and continuing chronologically. We also might vocalize and work on songs, but doing the reading was consistent. Invariably these poems would “happen to fit” what was going on in life at that moment. And we would look at each other with “that look” and shrug at the mysteries of the Universe.

In a lesson a month ago I read the poem, “Gratitude as an Antidote to Grief,” and I could see in Kip’s eyes and face that he resonated with in it a big way. This was powerfully affirming for me: to deeply move someone with my writing and my reading. This is what he said (from the 5/11/16 recorded lesson):

“I think that is one of the most valuable ones that’s in the book. It really is. I see why people would contact you and say, it’s what I needed, right on the money. For people dealing with loss… this is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

This poem is from the part of the book around the time of my mother’s death. She was the third and last of our parents to pass away in a very short time. I wrote this poem as comfort for my youngest sister…and myself. It turned out to be the day before Mom died. It seems particularly apropos right now with the shooting this week in Orlando. May it be a comfort to someone.

7/13/12 PM

Gratitude as an Antidote to Grief

For Dorothy

Grief as a tidal wave
after the tsunami
washing lives out to sea.

Roots ripped out
of living trees,
no end to sorrow.

But to be grateful
for what is and was,
even as future is lost

to notice and bless
peace and stillness
in place of struggle.

To hope for music
and music comes,
to imagine comfort

of holding a hand,
singing a childhood song,
praying a familiar prayer,

to desire someone to act as if
I were there,
and it is done.

Blessings on everyone.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2012

From Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine:
Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing

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