A Grief Counselor Witnesses Different Kinds of Tears

 

Kristy stares at me with brown irises

magnified by her moon glasses and says,

It’s not getting any better.

It just gets harder and harder every day.

Puddles swell over the whites of her eyes,

unblinking as they drill through mine.

She lets the saltwater drops roll down her face,

clutching the tissue I’ve given her in her fist.

 

Steven self-reflects that maybe

he’s been trying to replace his wife.

His shoulders rise tensely

and he bows his head, shaking it no.

I’m a mess, he says and uses

the corner of a Kleenex to dab under his glasses.

I promised myself I wouldn’t cry.

Only part of him wants to trust me

when I say it’s okay and suggest

he look for a quiet place

to let go of more of the mess.

 

Lori confides that she has this need

for everyone to like her.  She’s scared

by the fact that she yelled at her brother

for driving home after the wineries.

They both know that’s how their dad

and other brother died, but don’t say so.

I tell Lori it’s normal, this need to be liked.

We agree it’s especially true of women.

While her smile remains, her eyes

for an instant grow pink

and cloudy as she asks, Why is that?

 

I've heard that for men, it's not just a matter

of socialization and gender roles.

They say that the male tear duct is designed

in such a way that fewer tears can flow.

Sitting on the couch,

 

George shivers dry sobs

as I read him his own poem.

He is eighty and ashamed

of his typos and tearless tears.

He reminds himself of his father

and echoes his lesson: Real men don’t cry.

When he leaves, he gives me a painting

he made of a blue jay.  He’s happy

his doctor gave him a pill

so his hands no longer shake.