It was like this:
you were happy, then you were sad,
then happy again, then not.
It went on.
You were innocent or you were guilty.
Actions were taken, or not.
At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
Mostly, it seems you were silent—what could you say?
Now it is almost over.
Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.
It does this not in forgiveness—
between you, there is nothing to forgive—
but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
he sees the bread is finished with transformation.
Eating, too, is a thing now only for others.
It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
or your days: they will be wrong,
they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.
Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
you slept, you awakened.
Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.
Originally published in After (HarperCollins, 2006); all rights reserved. Copyright © by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
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.
When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back
as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.
You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.
You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out
and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,
or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.
Copyright © 2015 by Emily Fragos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.