We used to like talking about grief
Our journals and letters were packed
with losses, complaints, and sorrows.
Even if there was no grief
we wouldn’t stop lamenting
as though longing for the charm
of a distressed face.

Then we couldn’t help expressing grief
So many things descended without warning:
labor wasted, loves lost, houses gone,
marriages broken, friends estranged,
ambitions worn away by immediate needs.
Words lined up in our throats
for a good whining.
Grief seemed like an endless river—
the only immortal flow of life.

After losing a land and then giving up a tongue,
we stopped talking of grief
Smiles began to brighten our faces.
We laugh a lot, at our own mess.
Things become beautiful,
even hailstones in the strawberry fields.

  • Ha Jin, “Ways of Talking” from Facing Shadows. Copyright © 1996 by Ha Jin. Reprinted with the permission of Hanging Loose Press.

  • Source: Facing Shadows (1996)

Poet Bio

What People are Saying

"I learned that no matter how many times I do it, I will still be nervous when I speak in public. I also learned that it is possible to experience the same poem many times in a row and still feel like I am discovering something new about myself through the words of the writer."
Madeleine Schroeder
2017 OH POL Champion