Harley White

I Don’t Deserve

I don’t deserve a poem about my grief.

My only son and daughter

they should not
should not
have died
so young.

It offends the natural order.

No matter what
how horribly I failed
to be a mother
who knew how

(I was too numb to notice—
ever choking on myself—
my unfelt feelings)

and yet

they should
should not have died

they should
have made it through

I thought they had

when suddenly

one cursed August day in ‘94

my dearest Julia of twenty-nine
she took her life
and mine—

and then
just two years hence

in tortured March of ‘96

my precious son
my David thirty-one
who suffered so

who tried to hide
his agonies
so as to spare me more

he slipped away
so near
and yet so far

keeping still
his secret illness
till the end

and afterward

O my hero!

There are no excuses.

There’s no surcease
from the sorrow

not for me

I was— I am
their mother.

I had a splendid son
who sang his woodwinds
like a soaring bird
in farewell flight

who blazed so bright
and burned
in longings too intense
in dreams too great
for great great heights

whose ashes
I can not
let go

and daughter oh so beautiful
as brilliant as they come

whose presence
graced our planet

who knew the stars
while probing deep
so awfully deep within
the fearsome mysteries
of holey blackness.

Oh they were artists both—

my son the music maker
stunning improviser
talented beyond the bends

and she had such a gift
for crafting words—
how wondrous her plays
those lovely poems
homaged on a page.

I’m haunted so…

I need to say I’m sorry
for not being
than I
was then—

to somehow be forgiven

but I can’t
cannot turn back
to do it better
do it right.

For no matter how
they say I’m not to blame

I am
I know I am

don’t tell me
I their mother

I don’t deserve a poem
though they do

but I—
I don’t deserve to write it.

I don’t deserve a mourning poem
to ease the pain
that stabs me
through and through

and doesn’t dull—

they say death breaks the heart—
that master muscle
sans emotion—

but their deaths

my life
in two

twice over

so I could
no longer breathe

nor want to.

I die each day
with them


that awful dive
my daughter took

I cannot look

I cannot find
a single saving grace
inside my self

to save my soul

cannot forgive
forgive myself

not ever.

I don’t deserve
a life
their deaths.

I don’t deserve a poem
my pain.

I don’t deserve
I don’t…

I can’t
go on…


[Dedicated to Julia Lynne White– astrophysicist, poet, playwright (February 7,1965– August 9,1994) and David Ellis White– composer, woodwind player (September 3,1963– March 8,1996) ]

Submitted: Saturday, March 29, 2014
Edited: Thursday, April 03, 2014

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  • Colleen Courtney (3/29/2014 10:03:00 AM)

    So very sad. Yet so lovingly written. They may be gone but love them still greatly. They will know. (Report) Reply

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