Eating and Grieving
Grief lays like warm metal on my chest, separating my breasts into two solitary, ugly hormone bags, jiggling my womb upwards to the far away possibility of birth, electrifying heat in my solar plexus, in my guts, up through my throat and into the little sores in my mouth, on my tongue, gums and lips, and finally out through the biotin in my hair and nails, chipping away, balding, thinning. Nausea. Anxiety. Unknown. The layers of molten memory. And with each one, sobs. A kind of astral projection out of my body as the sobs stay for hours, days, on through nights. After the sobbing, there is no relief. And there is no remedy. Just quiet moments of rest. In the bath. Watching Friends. Cuddling with my bear. Sinking into the nothingness of these feelings. The wastedness, or wasting.
People always say time heals, but at first time colludes in further injury…two weeks, six months, and it’s still not over. He is still dead. Each marker of time elevating the pain to a new level of self-consciousness. “This is real. And I am still here. And I am not dead.”
With all this comes a deep fear that anything can happen at any time. I could die at any time. My mom could die at any time. My partner. There could be a break in. My soup could be laced with accidental poison. There could be an accident, a bomb, an oil spill, a traffic light dysfunction, men with guns, hands, teeth, vans, cars, anger, desire…
The news is full of apocalypse. The girls are full to the brim with confidence, lightening, fear. Facebook sends me into spirals of anger and anxiety.
Suddenly eating feels surprising. Dead people don’t eat. Eating feels like it felt when I was 15 throwing up every meal. Eating is nourishment and desire to be here. Eating is love and kindness. Eating is everything my guts don’t understand. The unconscious liberation from having to live life pretending you care.
But I care so much.
The nausea before and after a meal. The energy it takes not to throw up. The energy it takes to eat at all. To eat well. To eat so that it doesn’t hurt.
As I write I become nothingness. I astral project out of body and look at myself on earth. 26, fatherless, kind, wanting, full of energy, articulate, hard working, loving, surrounded with people who deeply love me.
I try not to come back into my body guilty. I try not to call myself a bitch for being so angry, so frustrated, so sad. I try not to compare privileges and circumstances and dig myself into the hole of easy self-hatred.
I eat a slice of pizza. It is warm. Freshly made. Tomato, cheese, dough. It’s simple. I think my dad would want me to enjoy this slice of pizza. I let it move into my mouth and caress the sores. I let their burn quiet with each bite. I feel the joy rise from my pelvis up through my belly. Sounds of New York childhood rush through me. Loud engines, friends laughing, Riverside park in summer, birthday parties, 8th grade lunch, after school walks across Central Park, Rays on 86th, Famiglias on 96th, Koronet on 110th, watching TV in my parents room, in my dad’s chair with a big slice of Koronet’s pepperoni with oregano.
Through the pores of my skin I let the waste slip out of me. I let the energy go. I am here in this place. On earth. Even just for the next few bites. Learning something or nothing, it doesn’t matter. This grease, spilling. This fragileness, a soft kind of resilience.
This place of heat and awe.
Cornelia Barber is a New York writer. In her duel writing and healing work she investigates lineage, intimacy, race and the psychic and physical ecologies of people, plants, places and animals. Her work can be found in The Wanderer, Prelude, The Felt, Berfrois, Fanzine, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Entropy, Dream Pop Press and more. Her poem “Pink Metal” won the Luna Luna Magazine inaugural flash poetry contest on the theme of “Death”, and her manuscript “Of Mouth And River” was nominated as a Tarpaulin Sky book award Semi-Finalist. She is an editor at Queen Mobs Teahouse. You can read her blog Poetry Rituals: here https://poetry-rituals.tu