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Artificial Light

"December's language is imprecise grief..." ~ Nelly Sachs

By Erin SheaPublished 3 months ago 1 min read
Top Story - December 2023
me in 2003

The cafeteria of my elementary school is now a shoebox -

a diorama made with paint that never fades.

The scene is set with dried glue: Cinco de Mayo

a Mariachi band plays for suburban youth

sipping chocolate milk cartons, eyeing the guitarist

who vaunted a three-fingered hand

We talked about it the rest of the day

over broken crayons. Missing limbs.


Alligators live in Connecticut rivers and

marshes, I insist. A stubborn girl

flipping through the CD binder, booster seat

nestled into worn leather. My Hello Kitty sandals

are peeling, planted on cigarette-strewn

beaches. Restless road trip legs.

The Fourth rolls around and I still

cover my ears like a child.


The parade of family photo albums never gets less

alarming, haunting glint of a wedding ring

purple PJs, and ancestors with familiar

faces that died young. Taut mouths.

I remember the crushing weight of a

Texas sun. Stung by fire ants.

How is one to survive the freefall

until morning?


Driving home on the cusp of 23, sheathed

by the rural dark of New England

I thrum through radio Christmas music -

my childhood self in the passenger seat.

"I never learned to French braid,"

I tell her with a dry throat, body heat waning

biding time is a gift

I lounge on memory slashed with dream ~

a woman in the pulpit on Christmas Eve

throwing oranges into the open hands of children

an offering; I've yet to learn the meaning of

worship divorced from grief.

heartbreaksad poetryHolidayexcerpts

About the Creator

Erin Shea

New Englander

Grad Student

Living with Lupus and POTS

Instagram: @somebookishrambles

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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    Creative use of language & vocab

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Comments (16)

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  • Alfonse Battistelli3 months ago

    Cool 😎

  • M. Rigby Barington3 months ago

    Quaint lovely write!

  • Kendall Defoe 3 months ago

    Yeah, a TS all the way... And my Mom used to do French braids for the women in our neighbourhood. I'll give her a call... ;)

  • K. Kocheryan3 months ago

    Cute picture and lovely poem. Congrats :)

  • Dana Crandell3 months ago

    A wistful, nostalgic and beautifully written piece. Loe the opening quote, too. Congfratulations!

  • Tressa Rose3 months ago

    What an adorable picture! Congrats on top story, well deserved!

  • Caroline Jane3 months ago

    Biding time is certainly a gift. Wise words poignantly put together. Lovely. ❤️

  • Judey Kalchik 3 months ago

    Congratulations on the Top Story!

  • Paul Stewart3 months ago

    Erin, you have a new subscriber and fan. This was enchanting, poignant, sad, nostalgic (like Brin said without using any of the traditional and cliched words associated with nostalgia) I imagined you almost telling me it...like in a conversational manner, if that makes sense? Rather than a very forced performance style. So glad Mackenzie shared this and that it got the Top Story it deserves. Well done.

  • Harun rashid3 months ago

    very nice ,congratulations!

  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Fabulous work! Keep it up—congratulations!

  • Judey Kalchik 3 months ago

    Mackenzie shared this poem in the Discord channel and I’m so glad she did. Simply spare, deftly dense. Tracing your time from that smiling girl posing- posing- posing for the camera, until the you now.

  • Mackenzie Davis3 months ago

    First of all, what a poignant quote to choose. That is incredible and sent my mind into a full body dry sob (yes that makes sense to me, lol). What a masterpiece, Erin. I read it a second time and am just floored. FLOORED. I could break this down into a hugely long essay, if you want, but I'll be kind on your eyes, and just tell you how immensely I admire your work. My favorite example of your skill is how you connect missing limbs in the first stanza to alligators, then covering your ears on fourth of july, completing it all with a new concept: the impossibility of "worship divorced from grief." (I almost want that at the beginning because it is like a new idea, but at the same time, it functions here as a fantastic summary of all that came before.) These ideas all add up to at least one (but probably more) instances of childhood trauma, if not loss, which is stated later, but specifically it's the violence of each element, missing limbs, alligators, loud explosions, that really resonate with the reader. Favorite line: :I lounge on memory slashed with dream ~" WOW

  • "Haunting glint of a wedding ring". That line produced a lump in my throat. Your poem was so nostalgic and poignant.

  • Plaintively evocative. Of all the schools I've attended, only my high school remains. My grade school was closed, the junior high torn down, the college I attended is now a federal penitentiary, & the seminary where I earned my M.Div. moved from the inner city of Kansas City, Missouri out to where classes are hosted at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, located in the wealthiest county in Kansas. I never learned how to French braid, either, & after 42 years in ministry (30 of it professionally), I resonate thoroughly with its connection with grief. Powerfully written/expressed.

  • Brin J.3 months ago

    I could feel the nostalgia in the beginning without you ever needing to use the words "memory", "past", or "flashback". It's incredible how you established a mood by only sharing samples of your personal history with us. <3 Incredible writing skills, indeed.

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