Saturday, March 18, 2017

#SOL17: Carrying

Putting a Burden Down (M.A. Reilly, 3.15.17)


Many years ago, Rob, our friend, Michael and I were in a linguistics course together.  There we were introduced to the poet, Molly Peacock, and her poem, "Putting a Burden Down."  It is a poem about what we carry and the strangeness we first feel when we release ourselves from carrying the burdens shouldered.

The poem opens:

Putting a burden down feels so empty 
you almost want to hoist it up again, 
for to carry nothing means there is no “me” 

I couldn't know then--when love was so young and light that years later I would understand the weight of this poem.


Now and then, at the oddest times, a thought will form. This is my life, my mind seems to whisper and I am startled.

Last night, I was carrying laundry from the dryer to the bedroom to fold when I thought: I don't have to carry this grief. The whole world is before of me. What do I choose?


Grief breaks up.

In doing so, it reveals pieces of hope we had thought were lost.  What we carry forms us, but how we carry it--well, that is a choice.


Mary Oliver, in the poem, "Heavy" tells us:

“It’s not the weight you carry  
but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it  
when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.” 

Books, brick, grief.


I did not know that at first I would need to bend to grief, pull it about me like one dashing out for a quick cigarette in a down pour gathers a rain coat quickly about, cups the match and then inhales. Then grief feels almost protective.

I did not know that as time passed, grief would alter, change. How I carried it would need to change, too.


Books, brick, grief.

It's all the same:

                         a matter of physics and,

of course,
                     the heart.

Mary Oliver, "Heavy" from Thirst: Poems (p. 53). Beacon Press.



  1. I once stayed numerous times at hotel that had outside stairs to second story suites. The bellman wasn't around too often and I was pretty independent so I'd carry my suitcase up those stairs. I found that when I carried it in the vertical position it seemed heavier than when I took the side handle and carried it horizontally. Thanks for a good word... the weight will be there, it's how we carry it-- our choice. Have a blessed weekend.

  2. What a beautifully worded piece. Wishing you the best.

  3. Gorgeous writing... truly moved by all of it. I've been struck by the moon lately, so your visual adds more depth to the mood and tone. Because I attended a church event tonight, Mary's Way of the Cross, I am particularly struck by the words in "shouldering the burden." Mary Olver is one of my favorites as well. I am enthralled with so many lines, but in choosing one it would be, "What we carry forms us, but how we carry it--well, that is a choice." Also reminds me of Tim O'Brien's book - The Things They Carried. Thanks for sharing

  4. I read your slice twice. The emotion is so strong. I admire how skillfully you choose words and weave your thoughts. The structure - the space you have left - makes the text even more powerful. After reading this I wish to send you a hug.

  5. Those poems are swirling in my head, and heart, right now. It reminds me that we often can't control the grief that comes, but maybe we can find ways, over time, to not let the grief define who we are. Not completely, anyway.

  6. i read your post earlier and tried to comment, but tears filled my eyes. This is an incredibly worded and shaped poem about holding on and letting go of not just sadness but also of the potential for joy. We can carry and we can let go. We make those choices again and again and again. I hope today you load is light.

  7. Beautiful poems to share. I hope that you find comfort in the beautiful writing you do and that it helps you ease the grief.

  8. Beautifully written. Have you heard the "joke" about the man who is carrying a 50 pound bag of potatoes? A man in a truck stops to pick him up, give him a ride down the road. The man has trouble getting in the cab of the truck with his potatoes. The truck driver says, "Just throw the bag of potatoes in the back of the truck!" "Oh, no!" he replies. "You were good enough to give me a ride, I don't expect you to carry my potatoes, too!"
    Yes, it is all in how you carry and hand it off when you don't need to carry it any longer...

  9. Grief is weighty, Mary Ann. Your image shows that perfectly. We hold so much tension and stress in our shoulders, my yoga teachers say. When the weight comes off, even for a few moments, life seems easier to bear. I feel your weight but I also hear the easing of it. May your weekend be light and airy.

  10. Lovely poem. The older and wiser we grow, the more these words impact our lives. Thanks for reminding me of this life lesson.

  11. So true. I've always loved these lines from the Oliver poem:
    It’s not the weight you carry
    but how you carry it—

    How we carry is a journey, really...

  12. This is a moving post. I love all the poems you included
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Mary Ann, I read most of your posts. This might be one of the most beautiful. Beautiful and so very wise.

  14. I've been going backwards today, so am reading your post "nearly" last. Funny how that goes, for your words today remind me of traveling, and no matter how much we carry, we do choose how to do so, travel light, or fill up the trunk so no one can go along with us. I think that's what I did at the beginning. I couldn't bear to talk about any of it unless needed. Once again, your dear words made me think about things differently, Mary Ann.

  15. This is such a beautiful piece on so many levels. Thank you. I love "It’s not the weight you carry
    but how you carry it—"

  16. I don't know how to express how your words always affect me. You are so honest. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  17. I understand the grief being can I ever think of loving another when for so long I held promises of how our life was to unfold, together. I am not ready to think about my future, but face life day by day-those baby steps help me from stumbling. Thank you for opening your heart and your eyes to grief. Only then can we face our fears, when we accept them.

  18. This is such a beautiful piece- my favorite of this challenge so far. Its theme is universal, yet you handle it like precious cargo. Thank you.

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  20. Such a thoughtful piece. I like how the poem still speaks to you. I hope your grief is lessening.