MN Poetry: Deborah Gordon Cooper’s “Visitations”

Poetry has a unique power to comfort in times of loss. And it’s that power that inspired Jim Perlman at Holy Cow! Press to assemble an anthology of poems about losing a loved one. The result, “Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude,” is a compelling tome, filled with not only great Minnesota poets, but also Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Jane Kenyon and Pablo Neruda, just to name a few. Here’s a poem by Deborah Gordon Cooper, one of the co-editors of the anthology:

Visitations

On Tuesday

in the produce aisle,

choosing my oranges by feel

and by their fragrance,

I hear my father

whistling in my ear.

A Scottish lullaby.

Everything else stops.

There is a tenderness no border can contain.

A web that may be glimpsed

in certain, unexpected plays of light,

or felt

like a shawl

across one’s shoulders

laid by unseen hands.

There are sounds in other decibels

the heart can hear

when the wind is right

and the mind has quieted its clicking.

The border guards are sleeping

at their stations.

Spirits come and go.

The wall between the living and the dead

is as yielding as a membrane,

is as porous as a skin.

Lay your palm against it

and you can hear their voices

in your hand

and in the place where the chest opens

like a flower.

They are not far away,

no farther than the breath,

and enter us as easily,

in pine and peonies,

in oranges and rain.

- “Visitations,” by Deborah Gordon Cooper, as it appears in the anthology Beloved on the Earth: 150 Poems of Grief and Gratitude, published by Holy Cow! Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.

  • Verna

    I recently lost my mother. Memories of her come at unexpected moments. Your poem captures this phenomenon very well. I love your images of how this happens.

  • Jim Mylrea

    The limbic ballet of memory can be triggered for me at the most unforseen moments. The smell of my grandmothers kitchen, my dad’s giggle, my grandfathers smile. Tender spirits never more than a membrane from my heart.