small black tent

at the dusty outskirts of the

loud, crowded, boisterous

City of the Gods

there is a small black tent

windblown, ragged, humble, yet

seemingly aware of its own

power. firmly rooted into the sand

as if it had been here from the beginning

perhaps it has

grass, thistle, and wildflowers

escort the occasional midnight pilgrim along the

stony path. no guards, attendants, or priests

to show the way

a cool breeze and the faint scent of

death welcome me in, send icepricks down

my spine, into my gut, clenching

not yet

the dimly lit center

holds a low stone table

an oil lamp smoking

flickering, inviting me in

i kneel at the simple altar

filled with odd scraps of cloth, locks of

hair, childrens toys, pictures, a tube

of lipstick

these must be the most sacred offerings

in the entire city

for those who brought them here

have given everything they have left

for this small black tent

is the Temple of Grief

and those who find themselves here

have already lost so much on the long dark road

these humble gifts-

scraps and tatters of what has been lost

songs of grief and praise

tear-soaked memories, dreams of what could have been

for this stone altar

holds a thousand bitter prayers of deep gratitude

to the ancient wisdom of Grief

and i have come to add one more

i did not bring a picture, a lock of hair

or a scrap of cloth, for

she did not even leave me

those small dignities


i reach down into my gut and open up my

throat, releasing a long, low groan

a wild prayer of pain

and gratitude

Hail, the lords and ladies of Grief

you great and ancient ones

I have come to give offerings and praise

to your terribly exacting wisdom

to your damp mysteries

look, i have prepared an alter for you

in the raw weeping expanse

of my chest

listen, i sing hymns to you

in the wild animal moans

of my throat

drink, i pour wine for you

in the hot salted longing

of my tears

may my grieving be beautiful to you

may my tears bless the tired soil

nourishing the grief-starved roots of the world

may my words be carried to you

on a golden platter

and become a feast of soulful eloquence

for i do not take your attention lightly

i am humbled by your affections

in awe of your powerful ways

my heart is full of gratitude

that you have found me worthy

of such terrifying gifts


that you have chosen me

above all my companions

to receive such a full measure of your

intoxicating bitter medicine

may this be the first of many journeys

to this holy place

for i now know that

to give myself fully to Love

is to give myself fully to Grief

and for every joyful song of gratitude

offered at one of the many

Temples of Love

there will always be a low note of

Grief being sung as well

the echoing drumbeat of sorrow

the shrill cry of loss

Hail, the lords and ladies of Grief

you great and ancient ones

may i never forget your teachings

may i never lose my gratitude

may this be the first of many journeys

to this holy place


Printed in the collection, “Small Black Tent: a hymnal”

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