On Norma Farber's "Year of Reversible Loss"

April (an excerpt)

                                 Light a bright exhalation in the evening
                                                              —Shakespeare, Henry VII

Last night you died.

You phoned always at the end of you your workday. "I'm leaving now, Lieb. Anything you'd like me to bring?"

"No, nothing, Lieb."

The usual exchange.

I put the roast in the oven. By the time it is done, and well done, you have been discovered unconscious at your desk. By the time I have told those who should be told, you are no longer ill.

Sign your name on the wind.
Then I'll know which way
to follow you.

How silent my body feels:
hush of my shoulders
upholding the weightlessness of loss.

A gaunt moon.
I need more light
to free the stone from its shadow.

* * *

Poet, concert singer, actress, novelist, and translator, the late Norma Farber was the author of thirty-five books. Her poems appeared in countless periodicals including The New Yorker, The Nation, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. Now, nearly three decades after her death, comes her previously unpublished Year of Reversible Loss. This strictly controlled yet rhapsodic examination of the terrain of grief was occasioned by the death of Norma Farber's husband of more than forty years, medical visionary Sidney Farber. As Pulitzer-Prize winner Siddhartha Mukherjee writes, "More than a marriage of art and science, theirs was a marriage of two unorthodox and complex minds." Of this anguished but lyric meditation that alternates between essay and verse, former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky notes its "formal doubleness" that yields writing as "attentive as it is candid, cool as it is heartfelt, elegant as it is passionate." 

I'm the third of Sidney and Norma Farber's four children. This marvelous poet's bravura language is our mother tongue. In our mother's text of grief we hear her love of Basho, Dickinson, Hopkins, the songs of Schubert and Schumann. Her invoking of their wisdom, technique, sounds. May other readers now hear the music of Norma Farber's tenacious exploration of loss, survival, and mourning, hear also her hard-won celebration of the unstoppable miracle of this ever-renewing world.





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