Stroll with Nicole,  Thought-provoking

Embracing the scars

Nicole Law says we need to acknowledge and embrace our sadness when we lose someone we love.

I am an avid consumer of poetry, in its written form via chapbooks and poetry collections and now more recently via social media platforms such as Instagram. 

I chanced upon a series of poems by Gabrielle Calvocoressi recently which bear a common refrain of ‘Miss you’. One particularly poignant title is Miss you. Would like to grab that chilled tofu we love. Here’s the full poem.

 

Miss you. Would like to grab that chilled tofu we love.

By Gabrielle Calvocoressi 

Do not care if  you bring only your light body.

Would just be so happy to sit at the table

and talk about the menu. Miss you.

Wish we could bet which chilis they’ll put

on the cubes of tofu. Our favorite.

Sometimes green. Sometimes red. Roasted

we always thought. But so cold and fresh.

How did they do it? Wish you could be here

to talk about it like it was so important.

Wish you could. Watched you on the screens

as I was walking, as I was cooking. Wished you

could get out of the hospital. Can’t

bring myself to order our dish and eat it

in the car. Miss you laughing. Miss

you coming in from the cold or one

too many meetings. Laughing. I’ll order

already. I’ll order seven helpings, some

dumplings, those cold yam noodles that you

like. You can come in your light

body or skeleton or be invisible I don’t even

care. Know you have a long way to travel.

Know I don’t even know if it’s long

at all. Wish you could tell me. What

you’re reading. If you’re reading.

Miss you. I’m at the table in the back.

 

In its apparent simplicity, Gabrielle touches on the tender subject of missing someone whom we have lost. The person she misses is left unclear: it could be a deceased spouse, a lover, or a close friend, but what is striking is the attention to minute details in this poem and the others in the series. 

It is in the things we remember about the people we love – like putting chilli on ‘cubes of tofu’ or that sense of shared experience in ‘our favourite’ way of eating a specific dish. I was touched by the quiet intimacy which suffused this series of poems and how missing a specific person can feel like such an individualised experience. 

 

I think about the memories I have shared with the people I love and the seemingly inconsequential things I remember about them.

 

Maybe it’s the way they have their coffee, their aversion to sitting near doors in cafes, or that crease around their eyes when they laugh. 

There is so much shared space and associated intimacy that comes with knowing and loving a person and which is hard to describe to someone looking from the outside. 

Gabrielle Calvocoressi lets us in on the specificity of loving and longing, so much so that I felt inspired to pen a similar poem to my late great grandmother: 

 

Voicemail poem #2

By Nicole Ann Law

Miss you. Would like to make pineapple tarts with you. 

Kneading dough on the dusty counter. 

Bubbling sticky pulp threading our hands together.

Miss your cold shoulders and zipfront nightgowns. 

The whirr of the Singer in the early morning working 

reams of fabric. I saw a floral pattern you would have loved. Even asked 

the lady working at the counter. Her eyes were glass, a marble smudged 

with fingerprints. The shiny black purse you gave me still 

sits undisturbed in my closet, waiting for our next Easter Mass. The next 

trip to the front pew where I’ll hold your hand 

and squeeze it a little. You fingered the beads fervently and 

pressed a crystal rosary into my hands. I looked at 

a photo of us on Instagram this morning. Hovering 

over you as if a guardian, the angel 

smiling toothlessly – wide eyed and brimming. A jar of 

achar leaking brine on my crisp white shirt. Listening to your 

raspy tones in the pig’s ear in the sebak we 

shared for dinner. Drunk on the brandy in the 

sugee cake you baked. When I dial 

your number, I hear you. 

A period of static.

A fuzzy warmth in my chest. 

You can’t wait to see me 

and I feel the same.

 

Writing the poem invited me into a space of quiet reflection and stillness. It involved reaching back into memory to isolate fragments of shared experiences with my grandmother and consider what I most missed about her. It was a way of creating space in which to recollect and to reimagine a person.

 

It is a weakness in today’s culture that following a loss we are encouraged to move forward blithely in our daily existence.

 

Maybe it’s easier to care less deeply and to ‘get on with the business of living’. Yet, there are also holes in our hearts which continue to gape and which must find expression and be acknowledged if we are to live an integrated life where our emotional landscape can develop and mature. 

I feel inspired to write my own series of ‘Miss you’ poems and get in touch with the raw vulnerability hidden deep inside. There is a lot of beauty in putting our fingers into the holes in our hearts and not recoiling at the freshness of these wounds, but learning to trace the jagged scars. 

Rather than being a symbol of damage and rupture, I like to think that these scars are curved lines of beauty. Let the jagged lines lead you to a sacred place of peace and healing too …

 

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Nicole Law is a staff writer for Adamah Media, who writes a weekly article entitled 'Stroll with Nicole'. She is a Pre-University educator based in sunny Singapore. Her calling is not only to mould young minds, but also to nourish souls through her faith-based podcast on Spotify (@nourishthesoul). She has a soft spot for burnt cheesecake, Dean Martin and swing dance. When she’s not engaging with her listeners on Instagram (@nicannlaw_), she’s planning new conversations for her podcast - she believes in the power of conversations and the beauty of our relationships.

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