On a stormy night in 2011, poet Edward Hirsch lost his 22-year-old son, Gabriel. After taking a club drug, Gabriel had a seizure and died of cardiac arrest.

In life, Gabriel was exciting and energetic, but he also struggled, as his father remembers in his poetry:

I look back at the worried parents
Wandering through the house
What are we going to do

The evening of the clinical
The night of the psychological
The morning facedown in the pillow

The experts can handle him
The experts have no idea
How to handle him …

Some nights I could not tell
If he was the wrecking ball
Or the building it crashed into

That’s part of a 78-page elegy Hirsch has just published called, simply, Gabriel: A Poem.

Hirsch, who is also president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York, tells NPR’s David Greene about the process of turning grief into poetry.