Unfurling: A Poem about Grief and Hope

Early spring woods with trees beginning to bud and a small pond in the background, against a blue sky. Image courtesy of Rachael Keefe.

While I am away writing, I share with you my latest poem.


First published on Beachtheology.com.

The woods reflect my grief today
gray bare branches contrast
against a cloudy, vaguely blue sky
last year’s pine needles
a pale brown carpet underfoot
further along
mud sucks at my feet as I walk the dog
he on four legs, me on three
just so roots and loose rocks don’t
bring my face too close
to that dark, wet mud

Along the worn path
out on the pond
filled with broken
used up cattails
a red winged black bird challenges
every creature who gets too close
screeching out warnings
and territorial claims

A pair of Cooper’s Hawks busily
build their nest until something
moves and they dive
down to the forest floor
causing a ruckus, sending
smaller birds flying up
with raucous shouts of their own

Breathing heavily up a hill
something in me relaxes it’s painful grip
making room for an awareness
of new life lifting
the drabness of winter
carrying it away
on a pine-scented breeze

The branches I thought were bare
in my renewed perception
are covered in the soft
yellow-green of unfurling leaves
the cold mud warms in the sun
giving way to tiny sprouts
of weeds, flowers, and fern
reaching out,
collecting sunlight

A deer startles me,
she raises her head
we are close enough to touch
even the dog is still
breathing quick and quivering
deer and human
our eyes meet
her’s earth brown, mine ocean blue
for a moment we are one
I wonder about her grief
until she bounds away
after a spotted fawn I hadn’t seen

The burden I carried
wrapped tightly
hidden in secret places
my heart picks up
the thrumming of the woods
not barren, not dormant
what was heavy
becomes empty husks
in the unfurling of my soul

About Rachael Keefe

Rev. Dr. Rachael Keefe is the pastor of Living Table United Church of Christ. She was called to Living Table in 2015 after serving in many varied ministry settings since her ordination in 1992. She holds graduate degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Seminary at Yale (formerly Andover Newton Theological School). Her ministry and leadership often center around advocacy and accessibility. Her writing has been published by Chalice Press, The Christian Century, Red Letter Christians, Working Preacher, RevGalBlogPals, and others. She is grateful to be in ministry with Living Table today.

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2 thoughts on “Unfurling: A Poem about Grief and Hope”

  1. Thanks for posting this poem–lovely to read it for myself. There’s so much to get here, that I got way more than when it was read to me.


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