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'Every last vein crammed with absence': poet Sina Queyras on grief

July 27, 2015

Whitney Houston, in concert

As we all wade cautiously through (or past) thousands of international column inches dedicated to the death of Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of Whitney Houston, it would be easy to surmise that we live in a Shakespearian world "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

When it comes to grief, humans seem to have both far too much to say and not nearly enough — which is why, at its best, poetry steps in to do it for us.

Concordia lecturer Sina Queyras recently published MxT or "Memory x Time" (Coach House Books), an award-winning reflection on death and grief. It contains the following sonnet.


From “Like A Jet” in MxT

Every last vein crammed with absence. Hers

Yours, ours, I must return to the now. Two

Incompatible screens, the pixelated grief,

The polyurethane grief, stuffed, animated,


Shrunken sweaters aping across an abandoned

Gym, Sexton’s arms outstretched, smoky

Scotch a glass clinking across the honeyed floor. 

I await your return and with it, futures


Uncorking. Hold tight, spray of time, we don’t

Race to death, it comes at us; there is no safety fence,

Once you drop, you walk into the forest as though

You owned it, you turn, wave, inhale black of day,


Exhale sight. Inhale death, exhale life, Ozymandias:

Everything that lives is light and she is now dark. 


Sina Queyras is a poet and a senior lecturer in Concordia's Department of English, as well as the organizer of Writers Read. This autumn's inaugural 2015 Writers Read event takes place on Friday, September 25, with poet Mary Ruefle.

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