Lightless Mass; or, On the Heightening of All Emotions in the Midst of Grief

By Will Watson / August 2017

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

I described it to a friend over coffee once. This follow-me-everywhere lightless mass that carries this strange internal yet external quality. I think I told him that it sits behind and above me, and when I turn corners I can almost feel its lag as my caused centripetal force swings it, and it pulls me with it. Gravity-like. And at the same time this heavy, packed blackness seats itself where my throat meets my chest, and it wads into a lump that I can neither swallow nor cough up. I feel it still as I write this line—heaving against the interior of my chest, pulling and pushing together in some paradoxical synchronous strain, fitting itself atop ribs and pushing down and out; around trachea and squeezing; between lungs and deflating.

It came with her loss. In the first weeks after her, it had a wild, furious metabolism, and it drove between my backbone and my brain and my chest and stomach, consuming each organ fully. How tiresome. I would watch my son throw tantrums and imagine this small, spinning, lightless mass bouncing around inside my ribs and screaming like him, raged, ungentle.

Eventually, though, it settled down with the new months. It now steams and pressurizes, expanding my bones past capacity, but it works slowly, rising from its seat slowly, extending arms and radii and pushing out on the chest walls, stretching arms beyond its little ability, always pushing, expanding, pressurizing, suffocating. Gravitational lag, blackness.

I have heard this lightless mass tell me one truth since it took its residency: it shall determine all of my days.

It does this by heightening each of my senses, emotions, thoughts, and feelings in both the best and worst ways. When my son laughs I feel the mass carrying it through the marrow in the bones of my hands, dancing. When he cries after I tell him no, and my ears ring and rattle, the mass constricts the muscles behind my eyes, drawing them in, crushing. When I hear sad news, the lightless mass slumps and my awareness of my discomfort with the nature of things reminds me of the necessity of my tears. I am too calm when I hear the waves, and I too quickly rationalize my actions. It affects every sensation, whether physical or emotive, in an expounding manner so that I am the fury of a land mine detonated by the soft wind of a butterfly’s tumble in the lightest fog. Warm has become both hot and cold since the arrival of the lightless mass, but never only warm.

Never only warm. Never only warm. I can never be only warm, in what you may consider its bland normalcy. I can only ever be hot, blazing like metors, or cold, brittled by ice. I either laugh the loudest or cry the pitifullest. I speak boldly or I retreat quickly. I never rest content as the comfort of the happy medium moved on when her little soul did, when her void left me with the little lightless mass to explore the reaches of my finite heart.

But oh, to know the middle and dwell there. To dwell where the lightless mass cannot bear on my lighted days.


If what you’ve read resonates with you, I’d love for you to give it a share! Click one of the icons below to do so.

If you haven’t read “Verbs of My Grief” yet, I suggest you do so since it is closesly tied to the content of this post. Click here to read it.

I also posted the text of a short narrative poem called “Lament” this week as well. Read it here.

And if you haven’t subscribed to the Will Watson Blog’s newsletter, fill out the form at the top of the page, or click here. One email a week, I promise.