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Whatever Leads to Joy

Posted on Dec 22, 2006 by

The book, What the Living Do, was written by Marie Howe in the wake of her brother’s death from AIDS. It’s a book that, perhaps better than any other book I know, walks that delicate balance between making memorial—remembering who and what has been lost—and choosing life in the wake of such loss—figuring out, day by day, what it is that the living do (after). There’s joy in the book—and in the poem—but it’s that bittersweet kind of joy—

The poem, “My Dead Friends,” can be found here.

The poem consists of only thirteen lines. Here are six of them:

I have begun,

when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question

to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear. . .

They stand in unison shaking their heads and smiling—whatever leads
to joy, they always answer. . .