Journal of the Plague 13: Weeping

[Image: “Harmony weeps for the present situation of American affairs” from 1775 via the Library of Congress], thus perhaps proving that nothing changes much.

Last night before bed I read the last part of Adrienne Rich’s An Atlas of the Difficult World and wept as I used to do in the middle of the night reading it up with my baby:

I know you are reading this poem as you pace beside the stove

warming milk, a crying child on your shoulder, a book in your hand,

because life is short and you too are thirsty.

I know you are reading this poem which is not in your language,

guessing at some words while others keep you reading

and I want to know which words they are….

I know you are reading this poem because there is nothing else left to read,

there where you have landed, stripped as you are.

Rich, Adrienne, from “(Dedications)” in An Atlas of the Difficult World (New York: WW Norton & Company, 1991), p. 26.

And then, as if that weren’t enough, I reread Ross Gay’s A Small Needful Fact and wept some more.

And then this morning I woke up at 4 am unable to sleep, wondering if it was worth even trying to go back to bed and deciding it was not, as this was likely to be my only time alone in my house today, and then I started weeping again, weeping about our dog dying (our dog is two years old and in good health, but that never stopped anyone from getting hit by a car—nor did being young and in good health stop anyone from getting killed by men with guns, or a boot on the neck, or a car driven into a crowd, or a body left hanging from a tree or burning in a ditch or dragged behind a car or sent to a gas chamber or any of the needless horrible ways that human beings (mostly white, mostly male) have seen fit to kill those they see as other).

I looked up weep in the OED just now, which offers as the main definition

To manifest the combination of bodily symptoms (instinctive cries or moans, sobs, and shedding of tears) which is the natural, audible, and visible expression of painful (and sometimes of intensely pleasurable) emotion; also, and in modern use chiefly, to shed tears (more or less silently).

“weep, v.”. OED Online. September 2020. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/226813?rskey=eRAnlw&result=2&isAdvanced=false (accessed September 29, 2020).

but which also offers, among many transitive variants

esp. to weep away: (a) to spend, consume in tears and lamentation; (b) to remove or wash away with tears of commiseration. (Said also of the tears.)

John Brown once said that the crimes of this guilty land can never be purged away but with blood.” I think history has proven him false on that. I would not say that weeping washes away sin, no more than any other action, except perhaps as a wound weeps (another OED definition) and thus perhaps begins to heal.

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