Don’t place your limits on this grief of mine
or try to cheer me out of feeling sorrow.
I need to wear it for a longer time
and won’t be ready to let go tomorrow.

The ragged tears that burn and sting my eyes,
the knot that’s tied inside my throat and chest
are raiment needed for my long good-bye
and bind me to the soul that’s laid to rest.

And so I wear a shroud of blackest black
and wrap myself in aching disbelief,
knowing when I last discard my cloak
our closeness severs. I’ll be sadly free.

So long as I can bear to wear my grief,
it’s part of me—the life that was so brief.



Sally Sandler is a writer and graduate of the University of Michigan. She lives in San Diego, California.

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19 Responses

  1. Julian D. Woodruff

    Ms. Sandler,
    These are words of raw power. To me they testify inarguably to the sacredness of human life.
    I miss the element of hope, but that is for another poem.

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Sally, your poem is heart-achingly beautiful and has brought tears to my eyes with its raw pain. It says so much in its brevity in imagery that transcends the written word. This is a very fine poem, indeed. Thank you!

  3. Cynthia Erlandson

    I very strongly agree with the sentiment you’ve expressed here, of not trying to cheer up a bereaved person with words that deny the person’s pain. Just being with them, and letting them know that we can’t even imagine what they’re going through, is about all we can do. Personally, that is why I believe that we need real funerals, not “celebrations of life”.

  4. Tonia Kalouria

    Having recently lost a husband and son, this really “hit home.”
    I especially like the first line: “Don’t put YOUR limits on MY grief.” It is both cogent and beautifully written.

  5. Yael

    This poem is sadly true, eloquent, and beautiful all at the same time. I can really relate to this.

  6. Margaret Coats

    This is a fine poem laid out so that mourning attire serves as your overall figure for the grief itself. As Cynthia says, the funeral ceremonies we have abbreviated or abandoned did serve an important purpose, and here you give an effective explanation. I take it your many imperfect rhymes suggest a grieving carelessness as to what is expected in rhyme, and the technique works in this particular poem, because of your careful attention to meter. The picking up of “disbelief” in the third quatrain to provide the perfect rhyme in the couplet shows that you are attending to rhyme in an unusual manner. I would suggest one little change to line 11, which really seems to demand “at last” rather than just “last.” With “last” alone, you appear to discard the cloak many times before the “last” discard. If you discard the cloak “at last,” it is worn continuously for a long time, which is what the poem is all about. Either way, you have five stresses in the line, and I would say that stressed “I” and stressed “last” need to be separated by a syllable. Again, fine work overall.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Good observation about line 11, Margaret. I think my unconscious must have supplied it when I read the poem: I was absorbed by the Frank expression of pain and secondarily by the imperfect rhymes (without reaching your insightful conjecture as to their purpose).


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