Poetry: In Grief by Shannan Mann
This poem by Shannan Mann has grief fifteen times. A ghazal, an epic, a gift, a woman’s own yawp, “In Grief” searches—like a scalpel searches—the space of grief for both joy and terror, rest and violence.
Men of blood, when cut, have cried in grief.
They wonder why women take pride in grief.
When the water of my body broke through my skin,
they drank and said: let me be your guide in grief.
Seeing such beauty hidden in your flesh,
God, too, would have died in grief.
I held the hand of a snake, a whale, a goblin, a wolf —
each begged to make me their virgin bride in grief.
Who does not want or want to be a saviour? Like gods,
they laid me down, whispered now widen — grief…
Hair, cunt, cells, smell. They wanted more.
No! I yelled. All women learn to hide in grief.
A necklace of knives around my neck,
in one I spied a creature wild-eyed in grief.
Lovers rowed me to goldfields, blessed my hands
with gemstones, candles, and silks dyed in grief.
Women showed me maps traced out of their past,
but when is wisdom ever applied in grief?
Animals eat their young when they have no refuge. I will
fast to the bone. No child of mine will reside in grief.
Even ascetics have dreams that darken their sheets.
So what, if there is no one to confide in? Grief!
From the wood of my bed I have built a pyre.
Come, fire, take what you were denied in grief.
Shannan, I offer you mirror and ink to write.
You have died enough, now delight in grief.
Shannan Mann is an Indian-Canadian writer. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rattle, Rust + Moth, Wildness and Humber Literary Review. She was a finalist for the Frontier 2021 Award for New Poets and has been nominated for the 2022 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem. Her play, “Milkbath”, was selected as the resident production of the Toronto Paprika Theatre Festival. You can find her at https://www.instagram.com/shannanmania/