grief · love

The Limited Edition {Poem}


He has never been loved.

He tries it on
Shrugging his shoulders to slip beneath its heavy weight,
Admiring its warmth, that cozy glow.
He feels safe.

He turns to the side,
Admiring himself for the first time
Drinking it in.
He’ll never take it off
He tells her.
Tells himself.

This is not an everyday magic.
Others will attempt to imitate her,
To recreate this love.
They cannot help themselves.
Yet they are plain, shallow copies;
A lesson in mass produced boredom.
They are cotton, and cotton has its uses-
But she is silk.

She is an exquisite lesson in burning desire
And soothing nurture both,
The stitching of lust and love.
This heart is a once in a lifetime gift,
An enchantment to treasure.

And when he lets her slip away
Remembering her softness beneath his waiting hand,
When he feels the cold empty place inside
Where once she draped herself-
He will wrap himself up
In regret instead.

Author: JoJo Rowden

Image: Alex/flickr

Originally published on Elephant Journal here.

grief · love

Every Saint Has a Past, Every Sinner Has a Future

grief · love · Poetry

Letting Grief In. {Poem}


Rain drums on shuttered windows, a melancholy rhythm to our sorrow.

The sky weeps with us in desolate abandon, screaming to a Universe that will not hear us.

We are drowning in the hollow void of you, but we don’t fight it.

Not anymore.

I am unforgiving of the cruel world marching ever on,

As though you had not vanished from it.

Our world has ended.

The thought of you gone is too big to grasp at first.

We push it away, but it is persistent, nagging.

It won’t be denied.

It creeps slowly, mist stealing through winter frost, chilling our aching souls.

We howl when it caresses us with icy fingers, embracing us with pain.

It hurts to breathe without you.

We long to hold each other high above the suffocating truth, to save each other.

But grief is just too heavy.

I see you everywhere.

In dreams you walk with me, through dappled forests and rolling green hills.

The magic of the world is still yours to explore.

We joke and play, your laughter dancing in my head, infectious.

Your eyes twinkle with bright mischief as you relay one of your many adventures.

Death is the greatest of them all.

Waking agony replaces the gentle oblivion of sleep.

I am alone again.

I pray that it is all a mistake; that you were only hurt, not gone.

Your closed eyes are dark doors that I cannot unlock.

Death holds the key, unrelenting in the face of my wretched tears.

I talk to you but I know that you are no longer there; I cannot reach you.

Please open your eyes.

Please Let me in.

Originally published here on Elephant Journal.

Author: JoJo Rowden

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: martin/flickr

grief · love

Let Me Shelter You.

I know you. At least, I did once.

You are struggling and I can sense it, even now. Even after all this time.

You still have a piece of my soul, entwined deeply with yours and it feels you when you writhe and moan in troubled sleep. You may not realise that you call my name as your haunted dreams provoke you. But you do.

You hide it well enough. Those who have not loved you would never know that you were hurting. But I have. I do. I hear your silence echo like the tolling of a death knell. Still water runs deep, and your depths are turbulent as you fight to find your place in this world.

You cannot hide your pain from me. And, I do not want you to. 

I can see through your happy messages and the smile that doesn’t quite reach your eyes. I know what your real smile feels like, sounds like, tastes like. I have been the cause of it more than once. I have made that sun rise high across darkened contours, a glittering enchantment, contagious to all who gaze upon it. I have been that smile. And though your darling lips try to put on a brave front, they remain a curved imposter, disguised as truth.

I understand why you try to hold me away, just outside of your reach. I feel the same vulnerability with you. I know that you clutch that rock face firmly; that you have climbed a long way from the valley of my love. You do not want to slip, to tumble head over heels again. You do not want to hurt anymore.

I wish I could show you that denying love doesn’t work, cannot work. If it exists, you will feel it, regardless. You may try to lock it away in a tightly sealed box, but it’s there, seeping gradually through the cracks. Let it go free. The world is dark enough and love is the only real light that we have. The world cannot tell us what shape it should be. It just is.

I can shelter you, if you let me. I can hold for you, even now. I want to give you a safe place to rest that weary, beloved head. To calm your fears, the ways that I know how. I will stroke the curls that graze your neck and nestle you in arms that have ached for you to want them. I will envelop you and soothe you with each shared breath.

I feel the storm that prowls around your mind, rattling the windows, desperate to get in. It throws back its head and screams in fits of frustration that its icy tendrils cannot reach you whilst I keep you.

We grin at each other, delighting in the delicious sound of rain on glass and the wind whistling through bending trees. I love watching the individual rivulets as they race each other down the window, leaping off the ledge to freedom. Your freedom.

I know I cannot keep you always, but this sanctuary exists for you until the angry skies give way to peace once again. Let me comfort you, as you have done for me. I ask for no promises in return; you cannot give them and we do not need them.

Rest awhile and talk to me of magic. Talk to me of more than day to day banalities. Talk to me of dreams and horrors and the workings of your heart. Talk to me of truth, for life is short and we may never get another chance. Talk to me of life. Your life.

My invitation stands, for all of time. Your heart is always welcome where mine goes. Trust in me, bring me your fears.

I can shelter you…if you let me.


Author: JoJo Rowden

Editor: Renee Jahnke

Photo: LaToya Muse/flickr

Originally published on Elephant Journal here.

grief · love · Spiritual

I am Empty of You

Sean McGrath/flickr

“In French, you don’t really say ‘I miss you.’ You say ‘tu me manques,’ which is closer to ‘you are missing from me.’ I love that.’You are missing from me.’ You are a part of me, you are essential to my being. You are like a limb, or an organ, or blood. I cannot function without you.”  ~ Unknown

When I say that I miss you, what I really mean is that your face wakes me from a dark place, your comforting familiarity dissolving in dawn mist like drifting smoke.

That life rushes in to replace my dreams as you slip away from me once more. I grasp for you with arms that will never quite reach you again.

I am empty of you.

I mean that I rise, wondering if you have woken too, and if you are drinking tea in golden sunlight, making plans as I am. I question if you slept all night or whether you tossed and turned, tormented by memories. Did you think of me when you woke? Did you push your unruly hair out of sleep-heavy eyes or leave it in a kissable tangle for someone else’s lips to explore?

When I say that I miss you, I mean that you are a beautiful puzzle piece, carved out of my soul, your intricate pattern forming part of my life picture. There is a space that always longs for you, that can never be filled if you are not here to gently love me.

It means that I yearn for what we were, how we were, the endless possibilities of us. I miss comforting your anxieties, sharing mine; tackling them together, side-by-side. I miss knowing what excites you today, what exquisite morsel of learning has found you and motivated you to try something new.  I miss the way you brought me your dreams and your dramas and how I loved you endlessly through both.

When I say I miss you, what I actually mean is, I long for the tender way you say my name and the way yours tastes in my mouth. The way you steal my tears away with soft lips, like the nectar of a goddess. I mean that when my eyes scan the surging crowd, I look for you. I hear your laughter pulsing just around the corner, always a step away.

I mean that I will eternally search for you in the magic of books, in beautiful lyrics & in the kind eyes of innocent souls.

Now you are just a polite stranger with memories sealed firmly away. Our easy discussions, our deepest thoughts flowing molten like lava, are replaced by artificial small talk, meaning nothing. The fire, the freedom, the intensity-all gone. Triviality has never been- and can never be—our story.

It was all a dream.

The cold silver face of the moon brings me hope, a celestial divinity that dances for us both across a diamond studded sky. Wherever you are now, I know you worship her too and I hold to that. I send her silent messages and imagine that they glide back to you on radiant moonbeams. Perhaps they do.

I am weary from dancing alone with the ghost of you. It’s time to change the song, to release you from my loving arms. It’s time for me to dance on without you. It is easier now.

I remember that I don’t know you, not anymore.
I remember how it felt to be inside your head
And I sometimes wonder
If you miss being in mine.

Originally published on Elephant Journal here.

grief · love · Spiritual

Escaping the Guilt Prison.

Hartwig HKD/flickr

The heavy smog of guilt surrounds me…slowly, silently.

It suffocates my joy as I struggle to break free from the strangling noose it tightens around my throat. It’s hard to fight a ghost. It’s dark shape changes when I manage to catch hold of it, and it twists and turns in my desperate hands.

I can’t breathe.

Guilt destroys me gently. Sometimes I forget about its pain, the hot dull throbbing in the pit of my stomach. It lurks on the borders of my sanity, watching for a chance to whisper sweet poison into my tortured ears. My worst nightmares are brought to life as it torments me with all the things my heart dreads.

You are a terrible person.
You don’t deserve to be happy.
No one could love you.

I believed it.

I have done things, said things, been things that I am not proud of. I have hurt people I adore. I think we all have. Life happens. Grief happens. I have been selfish in the face of my own heartache. I struggle to let go of the pain I have caused, long after the wronged party has forgiven and forgotten. They still haunt me.

I wake from sleep with nightmares ringing in my ears, sweat drenching my wracked body as scenes from the past play over and over, an old horror movie, crackling in black and white. I realise that I cannot keep punishing myself this way. I cannot change the past, no matter how much I may want to, and so, tormenting myself does not serve my pursuit for peace. Guilt is a prison, and we must allow ourselves to escape in order to move onto the life that we deserve.

I decide it is time to let go. It is a process, and I am finally ready to begin.

During some self-work recently, something stayed with me: Good people feel guilty. The fact that I even have remorse says something about me as a person. It reminds me that when my actions are incongruent with my values or expectations of myself, it hurts me, and I ache to make it right. I acknowledge to myself what I have done and I own it. Many can’t, or won’t, yet it’s impossible to find peace with something unless you first accept its truth. Denial and defence are dire companions on the road to self-forgiveness.

After acknowledgement comes mitigation. How might I make amends? Perhaps this is an authentic apology to another. Perhaps not. The sad reality is that the one that I am cruellest to rarely gets an apology from my sorrowful lips. Heaven knows that they deserve one after all these years.

That person is me.

I might decide to take physical action to rectify my wrong. Or, I may just create an intention to never act that way again. Only you can know what feels true for you. But regardless of which I decide is right, I let that action soothe me. I allow it to propel me into a future where I always remember, but no longer berate myself for what I cannot alter.

Guilt is an opportunity. It is a gift. It is a chance to learn who I am in the silence of my own mind. A chance to be accountable for wrongs I have done and to stop beating myself up for them, choosing instead to learn from them. Grow from them. I allow it to shape me into the person I want to be. A person I can be proud of. A person looking forward to a bright future. If I look back, I am lost.

I will still mess up of course. And I will still feel the pain that comes with that. I am only human after all. My flaws and my reactions are what make me unique. My dark is a mirror to my light and it is my light that drives me ever onwards in the knowledge of my one truth: I am a good person.

When it is my time to die I will look back on my mistakes, but I shall hold no regrets. I will offer myself the same compassion that I give to others so willingly; I will forgive myself.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

Photo: Hartwig HKD/flickr

Originally published on Elephant Journal here.

grief · love

The Crush


I was in love, I think

With the possibility of you.

With the romantic afternoons I dreamed we would spend
Lost in each other.
Lounging in bed, watching movies
Snuggled under warm blankets,
Flushed skin tingling with anticipation.

We would get up only
To make hot, strong tea.
Playfully arguing over whose turn it was
To brave the cold kitchen floor with bare warrior toes.
You would return triumphant with your scalding hot victory,
Kissing my forehead as I pulled you back into my warmth.

I thought about
The love we would make, over and over.
Passionate kisses and tender embraces.
Burning with lust, begging to be touched. Adoration.
I loved the fiery images that you conjured in my head.
The way our demons sighed together in peaceful unison
And no one else could reach us on our secret island of bliss.

I was in love with
The way your eyes watched me move
Across a candlelit bar
Drinking in the swing of my hips
And the curve of my ass.
You looked like you longed only for me
And it felt delicious.
Magic crackled expectantly over secret gazes
And I knew that you felt it too.

I imagined us
Sinking into the steaming bubbles of a claw foot bath,
Me nestled back against your warm chest.
We would talk awhile,
Drink wine; an opulent ruby red dancing on our tongues.
Perhaps we would read our books
As the water cooled around us,
Roaming free in worlds of our own,
yet never truly alone.

I was infatuated
by the trips we would take,
The valleys we would explore.
The way we would escape, carefree out into the world,
Holding hands, looking out over glittering cities.
Swinging in playgrounds, flying and laughing against a darkening sky.
Caresses under waterfalls.
Kisses stolen under a blanket of stars.
We were children of the earth, seeking our next adventure.

We saw each other’s soul laid bare, all of it.
A brave vulnerability.
We loved, I thought, with a love quite different to others.
One I had not known, for every love is unique.
Worshipping the very essence of each other’s being.

There are times when I was undone by you.
Your voice, your eyes, your imagination.
I would have done anything for you.
We burned too bright for our time
Scorching our fingers that ached to be closer entwined
As our fantasies crumbled to ash.

 And all that remains is this:
A memory.
A connection.
A dream that lives on through time.
A lazy smile playing gently with the thought of your name.

Tomorrow is another day. Who knows what it will bring?
Perhaps it will bring you.


Photo: taylor.f11/flickr

Originally published at elephant journal here.