More with Elise

Stunned by how hard this is. Made it through a day of teaching and mostly held my shit together — even managed to tell the nice coffee lady why I was sad without breaking even one tear — but I’m stunned by how much this hurts. Have I hurt this much before in my adult life when no rejection, zero, was involved?

On some level I’m just baffled. Elise was here, now she’s gone — wha? I was JUST talking to her. I mean, it’s the art of fucking compost, people, you’d think he’d get it, decay, metamorphosis? Heraclitus, hello?

Thought I had in a calmer moment. Part of growing into mind is what they call object constancy. Mommy went out of the room but she still is. Toy rolled under the couch but it still is. Epistemology of peekaboo. Death points in the other direction. Is that part of the hard of it, that it cuts against the grain of the growth of thought, how our thought grows up?

Also feeling, I’ll share with you, intensely mixed feelings about blogging this. Elise is becoming a public commodity — becoming, as I think it was Auden said of Yeats, her admirers — and I resist it, she had a texture, a grain, a personhood inimitably her own, and I hate seeing it already being made something consumable.

The thought that I might contribute to that galls me. So does the thought that I might be pimping private feelings at a public wall. And yet. Even with all that I feel moved to say what she meant and means to me. Even if most of what I’m saying is mostly inchoate.

I’m growing a poem in some glass drops I’ll post when it’s ready. In the meantime this by Jean Valentine I wanted to read her when I saw her last. We didn’t get to it — we read a few poems by Bishop instead and it was lovely to me to live with her a spell in the touch of the light sharp seeing they shared — so here it is.


Never ran this hard through the valley
never ate so many stars

I was carrying a dead deer
tied on to my neck and shoulders

deer legs hanging in front of me
heavy on my chest

People are not wanting
to let me in

Door in the mountain
let me in

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I write draw teach blog in and from the Pacific Northwest of America.

4 thoughts on “More with Elise”

  1. Feel moved to comment about how moving I find this. (I never comment so often on blogs…) Those questions of how not to contribute to the making of Elise into something consumable, somehow reduced and oversimplified and owned by other people in her death… those are such live ones for me, too. My two cents: what you’ve written about her feels like a gift. It seems like the more vital and loved the subject matter, the more imperfect the writing can feel to the writer (though not to me as reader of this–far from it). To offer the words right now, about this, seems particularly brave and generous and right to me. And I love this JV poem…


    1. Ah, thank you, my dear. I don’t know what I’m doing. You know as I drove up to Vancouver to see her for what turned out to be the last time I touched in with my fear and found it had mostly to do with not knowing what the eff I was doing. What if I’m scared of how she looks? What if she doesn’t want me to hug her? What gave me comfort — did this have something to do with talking with you about changes our spiritual teachers are going through — was to think NO ONE knows what the eff they’re doing. There’s no way to do this right I thought and no way to do it wrong. Don’t know how I got to that place but I did for a bit. Everything out the window, the light in the passing trees, felt saturated with frailty. Valentine’s poem seems to abide in that place all through doesn’t it. Well, thank you.


      1. Chris, I’m so sorry. I think what you said about not knowing how to respond to death and how to “do it right” has ripples that carry beyond those immediately affected by it.

        For the record, I don’t think your reflections turn your friend into a public commodity. Your pain, sorrow, and the beautiful thoughts that are emerging point to something beyond her, and this moment. It’s not about her. But it’s all about her. It’s not about you. But it’s all about you.

        Thank you for being willing to share such raw, intimate feelings with people who have no business knowing so much of your pain. You never know when you could be giving someone else the words to express their own grief.

        I would love to know how to be a friend to you in this time.


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