I've chosen this poem, "Questions" by Rachel Richardson, which examines the disorienting, disbelieving space one can occupy after losing a loved one. Many years ago, I experienced a string of losses of family and friends, and the incongruity of the continuing presence of all the silly, inconsequential daily-life things next to the empty space a loved one leaves is difficult and leaves one searching. This marvelous poem captures both the outward casual sense of the passing world as well as that yearning, pining, internal state.
The poet has this to say about her creation:
“I’ve been fascinated lately with algorithms and the things we expect computers to do for us. This poem came out of an internet search of the thousand most popular questions people googled in 2017 (and the astounding profit they generated for Google). Even though many of the questions seem vapid, I can’t help thinking that what we want to know, ultimately, is how to live. This poem is for my dear friend, the writer Nina Riggs, who died in February 2017 and who taught me the best answers I know to that question.”
by Rachel Richardson
If there’s one true thing, it’s that
Google will make money off us no matter what.
If we want to know
what percentage of America is white
(as it seems we do)
what percentage of the population is gay
(as it seems we do)
what percentage of the earth is water:
the engine is ready for our desire.
The urgent snow is everywhere
is a line by Edna St. Vincent Millay, and
many have asked, apparently,
where am I right now. Also
when will I die. Do you love me
may be up there, generating
high cost-per-click, but not
as high as how to make pancakes,
what time is it in California.
So many things I wanted to ask you,
now that you’re gone, and your texts
bounce back to me
undeliverable. Praise to
the goddess of the internet search, who returns
with her basket of grain,
67,000 helpful suggestions
to everything we request:
how to solve a Rubik’s Cube,
what to do when you’re bored,
how old is the earth,
how to clear cache,
what animal am I,
why do we dream,
where are you now, come back.