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Parentheses: A Tragedy

Updated on August 30, 2014

Poem Introduction

I wrote this poem while facing some significant losses and contemplating them. During my grief, I recalled the life span of a friend whom I had already lost some year back, and let his tombstone be the "parentheses." Ed, Don, Bob, and Ross are some of my dear friends I'll never forget. Eventually, everyone starts skipping over the parentheses. I still want to pause now and then, and read them closely.


In simple parentheses


and a "my friend used to say"

i watched all my

loves and likes of men

of women and co-this-or-that's

wash away under

a tide of decades

swimming bye.

I will love tremble

and grieve

as they dwindle.

I know now


I will be



by strangers,


So I shook

with fear and wept

and drank my tea.

Comments from Author

I find facing our own mortality through the mortality of another one of the most challenging experiences we face as human beings. We are shaken by it, upended, and undone by it. It seems impossible to me to not be shaken somehow unendingly. Sometimes the simplest comforts, tea, are the best. Those who try to bring complicated comforts in words meant to erase uncertainty and pain only offend the griever. It is better to sit, sip, and sit some more. The brevity of this poem helps to communicate the necessity of silence in the face of death. The abrupt ending matches the way death meets us. The boundary marker of parentheses shows the marking off of life by non-life, as perhaps more promise than despair. Parentheses assume something else without defining it, they define not-it.

© 2011 Dave Ward


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