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"Sanctum" Beulah B. Malkin

I built a tiny garden
In a corner of my heart

I kept it just for lovely things
And bade all else depart

And ever was there music
And flowers blossomed fair;

And never was it perfect
Until you entered there

 

My college classmate's father passed away from cancer last year. Having occasionally stayed over at her dorm room, I've met her parents several times during my four years of college. They were incredibly amiable folks - her mother would offer me homemade cookies, and her father would crack jokes and entertain all of us.
I heard that "Sanctum" was a poem that her mother had memorized to cope with the loss of her husband. Mind you, I have never been a poem enthusiast, and I don't intend to be. I am quite happy already burying my head in other genres. I've read Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe, along with short works here and there by various poets during my high school life. I've also repeatedly read and wrote up pages and pages of analyses as part of education, but I've never really felt attracted to poems in general. Despite my uninterest in poetry, when I first read "Sanctum," I started pouring drops of tears unknowingly and was extremely puzzled. What on earth has happened? 

Upon regaining myself (much to my embarrassment, I was at work at that time, but thankfully no one caught me sniffling), I took a long hard look at the literary piece again. It was strangely compelling. One of the reasons why it gave me such an emotional smack was probably due to the background of the whole situation - knowing the pain my classmate went through when her father passed away, knowing the pain her mother went through. I have lost my grandfather several years ago, and it had been a rough year. My mother regretted not spending more time with him. I regretted not spending more time with him. We all blamed ourselves for things we cannot amend, and the only way to cope was to fill our empty holes with intense fury towards nothing. But after all the uncontrollable emotional swells, we slowly transformed them into positive moments; remembering the good ol' times, remembering the gift that the passed had brought to everyone, remembering the conversations we had together. And suddenly "Sanctum" bursts with color. 

Just like we plant seeds into a physical garden, we also plant emotions and memories into the garden within ourselves. These most often grow slowly and start spreading its roots to eventually become a precious flower. Sometimes though, these may start to wilt, hang its head, and drop its petals one at a time, rapidly spreading a sense of loss and sorrow like a plague. Reading "Sanctum," it reminds me of the former and blurs the latter. It may only be a tiny piece of land, but its luxuriance and mellow fragrance entwines a sense of forgiveness and peace. It reminds me of all the good memories. More often than not, I end up remembering the unhappy moments of life more than I do of the happy ones. Negative emotions of sadness and anger tend to be more powerful and leave a deeper scar. However, upon imagining the flourishing garden that holds only the joyous memories, I am flooded by the numerous interactions that I've cherished so far in my lifetime. 

Who will enter this garden? Who will make it perfect? I believe that there is no one person, and that the sanctum will allow different people to enter at each memory, at each milestone in life. Whomever this may be, I will hold dear with strong compassion. The same applies vice versa - I will serve as the center of their affection. And who can blame me for wading and floating in a sea of tenderness? After all, this is only a tiny part of my vast mind and soul, and I have all rights to retreat into it whenever I wish. It is, precisely indeed, a sanctum in this absurd world of mine.