The Room is Full of You

After a long, complicated illness, my mother passed away. For the first time in my life, I find words wholly inadequate. I love her. I miss her. I hear that this never really goes away, and in a sense I hope it never does.

My mother was a great reader. She’s one of the few people I knew who could quote poetry at will for any occasion. Her favorite poet was Enda St. Vincent Millay. When I was younger, I didn’t “get it.” I thought her writing was precious because often she rhymed. Poets, REAL poets, threw convention out the window! Screw sonnets! I immersed myself in Ferlinghetti and e.e. cummings, smoked cigarettes, and was generally tragic.

Then one year for my birthday my mother gave me a Millay biography, and her own copies of Millay’s works that she’d purchased in 1965. She and my father had just become engaged, and would be married a year later. Even at the time, I considered this one of the best presents I’d ever received.

I was reading my mother’s books when I learned that she was gone.

 

Excerpt from Interim, by Enda St. Vincent Millay

The room is full of you!—As I came in

And closed the door behind me, all at once

A something in the air, intangible,

Yet stiff with meaning, struck my senses sick!—

 

Sharp, unfamiliar odors have destroyed

Each other room’s dear personality.

The heavy scent of damp, funereal flowers,—

The very essence, hush-distilled, of Death—

Has strangled that habitual breath of home

Whose expiration leaves all houses dead;

And wheresoe’er I look is hideous change.

Save here. Here ’twas as if a weed-choked gate

Had opened at my touch, and I had stepped

Into some long-forgot, enchanted, strange,

Sweet garden of a thousand years ago

And suddenly thought, “I have been here before!”

 

You are not here. I know that you are gone,

And will not ever enter here again.

And yet it seems to me, if I should speak,

Your silent step must wake across the hall;

If I should turn my head, that your sweet eyes

Would kiss me from the door.—So short a time

To teach my life its transposition to

This difficult and unaccustomed key!—

The room is as you left it; your last touch—

A thoughtless pressure, knowing not itself

As saintly—hallows now each simple thing;

Hallows and glorifies, and glows between

The dust’s grey fingers like a shielded light.

 

There is your book, just as you laid it down,

Face to the table,—I cannot believe

That you are gone!—Just then it seemed to me

You must be here. I almost laughed to think

How like reality the dream had been;

Yet knew before I laughed, and so was still.

That book, outspread, just as you laid it down!

Perhaps you thought, “I wonder what comes next,

And whether this or this will be the end”;

So rose, and left it, thinking to return.

 

Perhaps that chair, when you arose and passed

Out of the room, rocked silently a while

Ere it again was still. When you were gone

Forever from the room, perhaps that chair,

Stirred by your movement, rocked a little while,

Silently, to and fro…

 

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19 comments

  1. lucy50 · January 16, 2015

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mom.
    This is a beautiful poem.

  2. thebarrenlibrarian · January 16, 2015

    Im very, very sorry. I know you have rough days ahead. I hope you are surrounded by love throughout them.

  3. TryTryAgain · January 16, 2015

    Im so sorry to hear about your mum, sending you lots of love xxx

  4. Fox · January 16, 2015

    Im so sorry for your loss. No, it doesn’t go away. But it will lessen with time. Although, I would still advise you to be prepared for the occasional rogue wave of grief. Not that you asked for advice.

  5. mom number 2 · January 16, 2015

    I am so, so sorry for your loss.

  6. labmonkeyftw · January 16, 2015

    I am so sorry, for your loss, and for the heartbreak and pain of the past year. The poem is beautiful, thank you for sharing it.

  7. AndiePants · January 16, 2015

    So sorry to hear about your mom. Sending you love and prayers.

  8. Elizabeth · January 16, 2015

    Very sorry to read this news about your mother. What a gorgeous, haunting poem.

  9. My Perfect Breakdown · January 16, 2015

    I am so very sorry. There are no words. Love to you and your family.

  10. melisskavits · January 17, 2015

    So incredibly sorry- nothing can be said that will make things better but maybe you can take some comfort in reading the same words your mother did and cherished…beautiful poem. Sending love and peace…

  11. waitingbetweenthelines · January 17, 2015

    Oh i am so heartsore for you and so so sorry about the passing of your momxxx

  12. Haisla · January 17, 2015

    I’m so sorry. Words do feel wholly inadequate in times like these.. Extending a big virtual hug across the seas.xx

  13. notpregnantinrezza · January 17, 2015

    Very sorry to hear of the loss of your mom. That poem is beautiful.

  14. Chris · January 18, 2015

    I am so very sorry for your loss. I think it gets both better and worse. It’s been 8 years since my mother passed and the ache is different now. I no longer try to call her when something happens- good or bad. But the pain doesn’t really leave either. Heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

  15. Katie · January 19, 2015

    I am so sorry to read this. This post is extremely touching and the words of the poem so powerful. My thoughts are with you and yours during this time.

  16. pajamamommas · January 20, 2015

    So sorry to hear this. I agree that words are inadequate, but know that I am thinking of you and your family.

  17. Stefanie @ The MD & Me · January 20, 2015

    I’m so very sorry to hear of your mothers passing. I honestly can’t imagine… I’ll be keeping you and your family in my prayers.

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