Thursday, November 02, 2023

Poetry Friday: "I wanted to be surprised."

Of course, we should be careful about what we want. Reality is always surprising. 

I've been away from the blog for a while. Life has taken many surprising turns in the last few months and I'm sad to have to share that my father passed away. We'd seen such decline in the last year as he battled a rare, aggressive form of cancer that spread to his bones. When he opted for hospice care, we got him moved into a beautiful place and he died two days later. I was surprised by that, but also by hummingbirds and by an Oscar Wilde quote that played a part in Dad's last days. In addition to grieving the loss of a man who spent 89 years on this planet, we've been handling the many details that need to be handled, and now I'm working on moving my mom — who still lives two hours away from us and had to go into Memory Care — to our town, which will make everyone's life better and days happier. I have so much to say and to write about caring for one's parents, but today is not the day for that. Today, I just want to share some wisdom and loveliness from Jane Hirshfield, who is always a balm to my soul. 

I wanted to be surprised.

by Jane Hirshfield

To such a request, the world is obliging.

In just the past week, a rotund porcupine,
who seemed equally startled by me.

The man who swallowed a tiny microphone
to record the sounds of his body,
not considering beforehand how he might remove it.

A cabbage and mustard sandwich on marbled bread.

How easily the large spiders were caught with a clear plastic cup
surprised even them.

I don’t know why I was surprised every time love started or ended.
Or why each time a new fossil, Earth-like planet, or war.
Or that no one kept being there when the doorknob had clearly.

What should not have been so surprising:
my error after error, recognized when appearing on the faces of others.

What did not surprise enough:
my daily expectation that anything would continue,
and then that so much did continue, when so much did not.
(Read the rest here, at 


The round-up this week is being hosted by Buffy Silverman

Photo thanks to BarbeeAnne at Pixabay


Sarah Grace Tuttle said...

Karen-- I'm so sorry your family has been going through such a heartbreaking time. Wishing you and yours solace. Thank you for sharing this poem-- it's beautiful and bittersweet, and I enjoyed it very much.

Linda B said...

I am sorry for your loss, Karen. It always feels like there's time until there isn't any more. My sympathies to you and your family during this time. It does sound nice to be able to have your mother close. The poem, simply life, "and then that so much did continue, when so much did not." Hirschfield says so poignantly what we know, doesn't she? Thank you for sharing your own somber days and wishing you some nice surprises once in a while.

Rose Cappelli said...

So sorry for your loss, Karen. Glad you can find some comfort in poetry. Love and prayers coming your way.

Tracey Kiff-Judson said...

Karen, my deep condolences for your loss. I wish you peace in your journey through this difficult time. Thank you for sharing Jane Hirshfield’s poem. Surprise is certainly double edged.

Irene Latham said...

Karen, you are dealing with a lot, and i appreciate you sharing some of your journey with us. My father's death was a surprise that shouldn't have been--he was told he had two years to live and proved them all wrong by living 8 -- and i guess we all just thought he'd live forever. We also last year moved my mom to help make life easier and happier, and it truly has helped...though (surprise!) some things that were easier before are now difficult! Life...I'm particularly zeroed in on the things in the poem about things that should have surprised but didn't. A-journaling i go....thank you! And please know you are in my thoughts and prayers as you move through this and all things. xo

Karen Edmisten said...

Sarah Grace, thank you and I'm glad you enjoyed the poem too. It is lovely and bittersweet.

Linda, thank you so much and I agree that Hirshfield puts it so poignantly. The lines about what continues and what doesn't particularly struck me too. Thanks for the wishes for the nice surprises — there have certainly been some along the way. I will now forever associate hummingbirds with my father.

Rose, thanks for the love and prayers and condolences. Poetry is always comforting.

Tracey, thank you so much. Yes, isn't so much in life double-edged?

Irene, for a long time we thought of Dad in the same way. Before the cancer, he beat one health challenge after another and my sister's friend nicknamed him the Energizer Bunny because he just kept going. I can imagine that while some things will be easier after the move, some things will indeed be more complicated. Yes ... surprise! :) Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers.

You are all so kind! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Patricia Franz said...

Karen, my heart aches with yours; I'm walking that journey now, trying to look for the kindnesses hidden in my own parents' aging. I'll take a note from your Hirshfield poem - to keep looking...I don't want it to end.

Buffy Silverman said...

I'm so sorry to read about your father's passing and your mother's decline. Watching your parents' last moments is so hard, but the memory of it can be one of comfort. Wishing you and your mom moments of surprise.

elli said...

Oh, Karen, I am so very sorry for your loss! How grievous. I am offering prayers of quiet love and peace. May the sharp edges of pain soften in the comfort of God's steady embrace. ... Having your mother nearer to home does indeed sound good! Praying for an easeful transition for her!

Thank you, as well, for the reminder of this poet (I am busy this morning placing poetry on hold at the library).

Love and peace

Margaret Simon said...

Karen, I'm so sad to read here about your father's passing and the struggles of moving your mother. I've been right where you are. It's a rough thing to go through, but ,as I was reminded by a friend recently, grief and love are made of the same stuff. I hope you give yourself grace to grieve. Love, hearts, and hugs.
I'm tucking this amazing poem away.

Carol Varsalona said...

Karen, caring for parents and relatives is sometimes a full time job. I am so sorry for your loss and send thoughts and prayers for your family. Memory care is both a blessing and a worry. My 94-year-old uncle was cared for by my sister at the beginning of his 4 years in assisted living. He finally had to be moved to the memory care division because he kept trying to leave the facility. Each week was anew issue. He is at peace now but the paperwork that followed his passing is daunting. Everyone I know seems to have a journey to walk. May yours be filled with flowing peace. I know this is not easy.

Mary Lee said...

Thank you for the surprise of this beautiful poem in the midst of your grief and challenges. I hope all our good wishes are buoying you up a bit this weekend.

I loved the whole poem, but this part nearly made me burst into tears:
"Also, the stubborn, courteous persistence.
That even today please means please,
good morning is still understood as good morning,"

In spite of all the horrifying news, this truth remains. Just as, in spite of all the horrifying climate news, the trees continue to make and drop leaves, the squirrels gather nuts and dig up my garden beds, the boxelder bugs swarm on a warm post near the river.

Karen Edmisten said...

Patricia, my heart is with you as you walk this journey too. ❤️

Buffy, thank you for the wishes for those moments of surprise. They are there indeed.

Elli, thank you so much for the loving prayers.

Margaret, yes, love and grief are made of the same stuff. I remember a quote from (of all things!) WandaVision: "What is grief, if not love persevering?"

Carol, oh, my, yes, there are blessings and challenges about every stage of this life, aren't there? (And the paperwork and phone calls ... oh, my.) Thanks so much.

Mary Lee, yes! Those lines get to me every time. ❤️ And yes to being buoyed up by all of you this weekend. Thank you, friends!

mbhmaine said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss. Not too long ago, my father and stepmother died within less than a year. It's such a difficult journey, especially when dealing with severe illness along the way. I'm glad you'll be able to move your mom closer to you and that you're able to anticipate happier days with that move. The poem you shared is so poignant. In particular, these lines moved me, "my daily expectation that anything would continue,
and then that so much did continue, when so much did not." Sending sympathy and support your way.

Bridget Magee said...

Thank you for sharing your loss and making a beautiful post out of it, Karen. Hirshfield's poem is especially poignant.

Denise Krebs said...

Karen, peace to you and your mom and all those who loved him. What a feat -- 89 years on earth. I was reminded of my mother's death at 88. It is a long life to love and be loved by so many. I hope your mom moving close will truly "make everyone's life better and days happier." I love the hope in your post.

Linda said...

I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I'm sure it will be a comfort to have your mom close by. Sending love and hugs to you and yours. xo

Karen Edmisten said...

Molly, thank you so much, and I'm so sorry about your losses too. Sympathy and support to you as well! ❤️

Bridget, thank you so much for those kind words.

Denise, thank you. Here's to hope. :)

Linda, thank you! Xs and Os back to you. :)

Tabatha said...

I'm sorry to be late to seeing your news, Karen. I wish we lived closer so I could make tea for you. It sounds like you could use a cuppa. Sending love as you come to grips with your loss and get your mom moved.