Today’s poem and I keep bumping into each other. I found it in my inbox, anthologies, magazines, and even on a poetry walk in New Hampshire, so I decided it was time to share it here. As a fan of E.B. White and Charlotte’s Web, “Wondrous” had me at the first stanza, but it’s the poem’s heartfelt message about loss and grief that kept me reading and stayed with me long after I finished.
I’m driving home from school when the radio talk
turns to E.B. White, his birthday, and I exit
the here and now of the freeway at rush hour,
travel back into the past, where my mother is reading
to my sister and me the part about Charlotte laying her eggs
and dying, and though this is the fifth time Charlotte
has died, my mother is crying again, and we’re laughing
at her because we know nothing of loss and its sad math,
how every subtraction is exponential, how each grief
multiplies the one preceding it, how the author tried
seventeen times to record the words She died alone
without crying, seventeen takes and a short walk during
which he called himself ridiculous, a grown man crying
for a spider he’d spun out of the silk thread of invention—
wondrous how those words would come back and make
him cry, and, yes, wondrous to hear my mother’s voice
ten years after the day she died—the catch, the rasp,
the gathering up before she could say to us, I’m OK.
Thank you to the Malden Public Library in Massachusetts for this beautiful reading of “Wondrous”:
- What do you notice about this poem? It wasn’t until my fifth reading or so that I realized it’s one sentence.
- What does every subtraction is exponential and each grief multiplies the one preceding it mean to you?
- Do you have a favorite childhood book that you like to revisit?
“Wondrous” by Sarah Freligh from Sad Math, 2015. Copyrighted material used for educational or therapeutic purposes.