Loss can defeat us or serve as the impetus for positive change. Here, Sue Ellen Thompson of Connecticut shows us how to mourn inevitable...

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Loss can defeat us or serve as the impetus for positive change. Here, Sue Ellen Thompson of Connecticut shows us how to mourn inevitable changes, tuck the memories away, then go on to see the possibility of a new and promising chapter in one’s life.


TED KOOSER, U.S. Poet Laureate




I bring the cat’s body home from the vet’s


in a running-shoe box held shut


with elastic bands. Then I clean


the corners where she has eaten and


slept, scrubbing the hard bits of food


from the baseboard, dumping the litter


and blasting the pan with a hose. The plastic


dishes I hide in the basement, the pee-


soaked towel I put in the trash. I put


the catnip mouse in the box and I put


the box away, too, in a deep


dirt drawer in the earth.


When the death-energy leaves me,


I go to the room where my daughter slept


in nursery school, grammar school, high school,


I lie on her milky bedspread and think


of the day I left her at college, how nothing


could keep me from gouging the melted candle-wax


out from between her floorboards,


or taking a razor blade to the decal


that said to the firemen, “Break


this window first.” I close my eyes now


and enter a place that’s clearly


expecting me, swaddled in loss


and then losing that, too, as I move


from room to bone-white room


in the house of the rest of my life.


Sue Ellen Thompson



Reprinted from “Nimrod International Journal: The Healing Arts,” Vol. 49, No. 2, Spring-Summer, 2006, by permission of the author. Copyright 2006 by Sue Ellen Thompson, whose latest book is “The Golden Hour,” Autumn House Press, 2006. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry. “American Life in Poetry” appears Fridays in Northwest Life.