Sunday, August 31, 2014

To Her Mourning Daughter

To Her Mourning Daughter

My keening daughter, stare not too long
at the darkness of the grave.
Avert your eyes in time
and do not lose yourself in kindred’s tears
your veil too thin, your skin too sear for this
and you, too young in years
to bear such bitter bliss:
you, who have no need to be so brave.

Rather, be a bone as hollow as a birds, and as light,
see in the stars’ sweet drift the one who knew you
and let these currents of a dark and sadder night
flow through you, through you.
Do not assume the tint of faded leaves
do not allow the kindred here to cast you
as the one who ever grieves.

But rather, channel the water
where you wish it to follow.
Carry it with you, willow daughter
give voice to the pain
keen for the silence
be a flowing river
meander full and hollow
be both carrier and giver,
and life will surely flow
into your soul once again.

And only shed your mourning weeds
and casually toss your hair
when you are once more safely in my arms.
My daughter, I fear I abandoned you there
to a life of mourning and dark armbands
but life has other charms
and you have other needs.

Freely rewritten from a fragment of a 16th-century Hindi poem.

Artwork reworked by DutchPuh from an original painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau


  1. This poem is exquisitely beautiful and haunting, brimming with tender compassion and love. The mother in the poem gently advises her daughter of earthly life to not dwell in the sorrow of her passing but to live the fullness of life. The translation is imbued with the creative light and poetic vision of the translator. It is truly a wonderful poem as it poignantly touches upon the passing of earthly form, in this case the mother's, and the grief that is felt by her daughter. It is through compassion and love that healing arises. We are all expressions of the one love that is called life. Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem!

    1. Joseph, you have provided me with a revelation! It had not occurred to me when I was working on the rewrite of this moving poem that it is the mother herself who is being mourned, and that it is her spirit who is speaking in the poem. But it makes perfect sense to read it in this way - and it adds a further emotional intensity to the poem. Thank you so much!