I have all of these
lily plants but not you,
How they ease
my breathing yet
trouble my mind,
of your soaring
too high to see
out of tune, time’s
so shiny & perfect
they look fake,
but a few brown ones
barely clinging &
curled in on themselves—
less supple, less everything
like me, let me know
they are real.
They are real. Too
real. Lord knows
you were the most real
one can ever be & now
you are really gone!
Your need is over,
but your giving goes on
& on. Heaven is shedding
desire’s heavy robes, pure
devotion to love’s
bare essence. You, flowered
& shiny in what’s left
of my heart, teaching me
to rally. No matter
how it may appear,
I’m not rootless.
Today & tomorrow
& the day after that,
you remain evergreen
somewhere not here,
as my tears land
in potted soil exiled
from its mother, Earth,
Copyright © 2021 by Kamilah Aisha Moon. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on February 2, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
A hummingbird hovers above the branches outside the window.
Soon the earth will rise again.
Waking from earth’s sleep,
green leaves begin to emerge.
Tiny purple flowers bloom like tiny notes of music.
Háshínee’, and so it is.
We called you loved one; we called you daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother;
we called you. friend, teacher.
After we have feasted in your honor, remembered you in tender ways,
told stories of you,
and the rain has washed away our tears,
we will give you back to the other side.
We will release you.
We will sing you back to your relatives,
sing you back to the places where you once walked,
and return you to the stars.
Háshínee’, and so it is.
You will return to us
in the changing season
of a hummingbird hovering above a branch
in the season of green leaves emerging,
in the notes of tiny purple flowers singing in the rain.
*Háshínee’ is a Navajo female term of endearment
Copyright © Laura Tohe. Used with permission of the author.
Today, longing for my father,
I saw a solitary bleached owl skim
the dark grasses. It swept so low
to the ground it might have buried itself.
I did not know my father so how could I
be lonely for that guardian?
When I was a newborn, I didn’t let
my father hold me. I cried in his presence
till my mother came. My father would shrug,
lean into his high backed chair, to read the paper,
to smoke his pipe while he heard his wife
sing to his only daughter.
In the woods, I summon him
and my eyes fool me as a dark haired
jay shifts a twig, or a stone rolls
into the creek. I think I hear his footsteps
on the path, but it is only the oak
hip twitching to the afternoon’s cold wind.
When I was born, he must have felt
the rupture in his chest, dark matter funneling
through his veins, and he must have known
he would not be here for the rest but he ushered
me into that brightly lit room, the earth
with all its lumen.
Father, I know you are here,
the only place you must be,
where the heavy branches
lean into bright air.
I put down my sack to eat everything
I have carried with me. When I am done,
the ants come swarming in to take
the last of it, to cleanse the earth
of abundance and discard.
Walking in these woods, I believe
that tall shadows and shifts of light
mean that something is at work beyond me.
Midway home and the redwood
are letting go their furious scent,
where you are the tree left standing
and I am this frozen salt flat,
hemisphere of crushed snow.
Copyright © Tina Chang. Used with permission of the author.
in loving memory of Concepcion Cruz Agullana
Everywhere is a cemetery,
and there will be no funeral. on either side of the Pacific Ocean.
No one will give last rites to my lola, No guessing nurse will call my name or hers
I will have heard no doctor’s steely voice There’ll be no waiting room
to call her ‘the body.’ Over the body. There will be no priest
swinging a pendulum of incense no prayers no rosaries there’s no money
No undertaker will proclaim her life There’ll be no glass plate covering
her wooden casket. There will be no casket it’s too expensive There will be no party
no lumpia no noodles for no life long enough
No black attire No hands clasping tissue or other hands
‘The body’ will not be seen There will be my grandma in an urn–a tiny basket
her curled body that lilted into the afterlife after dementia twenty years after grandpa
there’s no room for every body
there’s no house for everybody to come in and stay no room for sorrows There will be no placeholder no
land no candles no water no six-foot empty she will be unmarked
my lola, an unnamed earthquake
No one will hear her long name how it stretches a sunset if my lola dies and no one sees is
she still my lola? is a canyon a series of cliffs? there’s no place in the apartment for what rituals
maybe they will send her to the Philippines my grandma is a maybe and we are not they
did you know when airlines carry the deceased
they are called passengers
they travel in their coffins passengers in seats are called existing passengers
this small poem the only eulogy where we’ll put my grandma her existence laid to rest in a
in this non-ilokano language a killer rows and rows of dirt
money doesn’t grow maybe someone there will bury her
how will i carry her when only darkness has the space?
where will we put my grandma when we can’t afford our grief?
Copyright © Janice Sapigao. This poem originally appeared in Drunk in a Midnight Choir. Used with permission of the author.
Here on my lap, in a small plastic bag,
my share of your ashes. Let me not squander
them. Your family blindsided me with this gift.
We want to honor your bond they said at the end
of your service, which took place, as you'd
arranged, in a restaurant at the harbor,
an old two-story boathouse made of dark
wood. Some of us sat on the balcony, on black
leather bar stools, staring at rows of docked boats.
Both your husbands showed up and got along.
And of course your impossibly handsome son.
After lunch, a slideshow and testimonials,
your family left to toss their share of you
onto the ocean, along with some flowers.
You were the girlfriend I practiced kissing
with in sixth grade during zero-sleep
sleepovers. You were the pretty one.
In middle school I lived on diet Coke and
your sexual reconnaissance reports. In this
telling of our story your father never hits
you or calls you a whore. Always gentle
with me, he taught me to ride a bike after
everyone said I was too klutzy to learn.
In this version we're not afraid of our bodies.
In this fiction, birth control is easy to obtain,
and never fails. You still dive under a stall
divider in a restroom at the beach to free me
after I get too drunk to unlock the door. You still
reveal the esoteric mysteries of tampons. You
still learn Farsi and French from boyfriends
as your life ignites. In high school I still guide you
safely out of the stadium when you start yelling
that the football looks amazing as it shatters
into a million shimmering pieces, as you
loudly admit that you just dropped acid.
We lived to be sixty. Then poof, you vanished.
I can't snort you, or dump you out over my head,
coating myself in your dust like some hapless cartoon
character who's just blown herself up, yet remains
unscathed, as is the way in cartoons. In this version,
I remain in place for a while. Did you have a good
journey? I'm still lagging behind, barking up all
the wrong trees, whipping out my scimitar far
in advance of what the occasion demands. As I
drive home from your memorial, you fizz in
my head like a distant radio station. What
can I do to bridge this chasm between us?
In this fiction, I roll down the window, drive
uncharacteristically fast. I tear your baggie
open with my teeth and release you at 85
miles an hour, music cranked up full blast.
Copyright © 2019 by Amy Gerstler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.