I have folded my sorrows into the mantle of summer night,
Assigning each brief storm its allotted space in time,
Quietly pursuing catastrophic histories buried in my eyes.
And yes, the world is not some unplayed Cosmic Game,
And the sun is still ninety-three million miles from me,
And in the imaginary forest, the shingled hippo becomes the gray unicorn.
No, my traffic is not with addled keepers of yesterday’s disasters,
Seekers of manifest disembowelment on shafts of yesterday’s pains.
Blues come dressed like introspective echoes of a journey.
And yes, I have searched the rooms of the moon on cold summer nights.
And yes, I have refought those unfinished encounters.
      Still, they remain unfinished.
And yes, I have at times wished myself something different.

The tragedies are sung nightly at the funerals of the poet;
The revisited soul is wrapped in the aura of familiarity. 

“I Have Folded My Sorrows,” by Robert Kaufman, from SOLITUDES CROWDED WITH LONELINESS, copyright © 1965 by Bob Kaufman. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. 

In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.

The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.

Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,

their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,

every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,

the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.

I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything

in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,

including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,

bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts

and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.

From Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood. Copyright © 1995 by Margaret Atwood. Published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Co., published in Canada by McClelland and Stewart, Inc. All rights reserved.

Four tickets left, I let her go—
Firstborn into a hurricane.

I thought she escaped
The floodwaters. No—but her

Head is empty of the drowned
For now—though she took

Her first breath below sea level.
Ahhh       awe       &       aw
Mama, let me go—she speaks

What every smart child knows—
To get grown you unlatch

Your hands from the grown
& up & up & up & up
She turns—latched in the seat

Of a hurricane. You let
Your girl what? You let

Your girl what?
I did so she do I did
so she do so—

Girl, you can ride
A hurricane & she do
& she do & she do & she do

She do make my river
An ocean. Memorial,
Baptist, Protestant birth—my girl

Walked away from a hurricane.
& she do & she do & she do & she do
She do take my hand a while longer.

The haunts in my pocket
I’ll keep to a hum: Katrina was
a woman I knew. When you were

an infant she rained on you & she

do & she do & she do & she do

From Hemming the Water. Copyright © 2013 by Yona Harvey. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.

Another year is coming to an end
but my old t-shirts will not be back—

the pea-green one from Trinity College,
gunked with streaks of lawnmower grease,

the one with orange bat wings
from Diamond Cavern, Kentucky,

vanished
without a trace.

After a two-day storm I wander the beach
admiring the ocean’s lack of attachment.

I huddle beneath a seashell,
lonely as an exile.

My sadness is the sadness of water fountains.
My sadness is as ordinary as these gulls

importuning for Cheetos or scraps
of peanut butter sandwiches.

Feed them a single crust
and they will never leave you alone.

Copyright © 2016 by Campbell McGrath. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 28, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

I like being with you all night with closed eyes.
What luck—here you are
coming
along the stars!
I did a road trip
all over my mind and heart
and
there you were
kneeling by the roadside
with your little toolkit
fixing something.

Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.

Copyright © 2020 by Anne Carson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 10, 2020, 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.

In the museum of sadness, in the museum of light—

I would climb so carefully inside the glass coffin and lower the lid.

Do you think the saying is true: when someone dies, a library burns down?

Maybe just a sentence, scratched slowly on the lid, Say what you mean.

From Please Bury Me in This. Copyright © 2017 by Allison Benis White. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc. on behalf of Four Way Books, www.fourwaybooks.com.

There is an autumn sadness upon me,
A sadness of bared trees,
And mist and delicate death of flowers.
There is an autumn sadness upon me,
A falling of leaves in my soul.

There is an autumn sadness upon me,
A dreamfulness in my heart,
And a wistful sense of longing.
There is faint moaning music
Like cries of departing birds.

There are trembling hands on my eyelids,
A dim foreknowledge of tears
And dreams, patterning ultimate slumber.
There is an autumn sadness upon me,
A falling of leaves in my soul.

From On a Grey Thread (Will Ransom, 1923) by Elsa Gidlow. This poem is in the public domain. 

How sad, how glad,
   The Christmas morn!
Some say, “To-day
   Dear Christ was born,
        And hope and mirth
        Flood all the earth;
Who would be sad
   This Christmas morn.”

How glad, how sad,
   The Christmas morn!
“To-day,” some say
   Dear Christ was born,
        But oh! He died;
        Was crucified!
Who could be glad
   This Christmas morn!

Or glad, or sad,
   This Christmas morn,
To some will come
   A joy new-born.
        The fleeting breath
        To some bring death,—
How glad, how sad
   This Christmas morn.

This poem was published in In the Land of Fancy and Other Poems (F. T. Neely, 1902). This poem is in the public domain.

Oh, she was sad, oh, she was sad.
She didn’t mean to do it.

Certain thrills stay tucked in your limbs,
go no further than your fingers, move your legs through their paces,
but no more. Certain thrills knock you flat
on your sheets on your bed in your room and you fade
and they fade. You falter and they’re gone, gone, gone.
Certain thrills puff off you like smoke rings,
some like bell rings growing out, out, turning
brass, steel, gold, till the whole world’s filled
with the gonging of your thrills.

But oh, she was sad, she was just sad, sad,
and she didn’t mean to do it.

From She Didn’t Mean to Do It by Daisy Fried © 2000. Reprinted by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. 

The moon was like a full cup tonight,
too heavy, and sank in the mist
soon after dark, leaving for light

faint stars and the silver leaves
of milkweed beside the road,
gleaming before my car.

Yet I like driving at night
in summer and in Vermont:
the brown road through the mist

of mountain-dark, among farms
so quiet, and the roadside willows
opening out where I saw

the cows. Always a shock
to remember them there, those
great breathings close in the dark.

I stopped, and took my flashlight
to the pasture fence. They turned
to me where they lay, sad

and beautiful faces in the dark,
and I counted them–forty
near and far in the pasture,

turning to me, sad and beautiful
like girls very long ago
who were innocent, and sad

because they were innocent,
and beautiful because they were
sad. I switched off my light.

But I did not want to go,
not yet, nor knew what to do
if I should stay, for how

in that great darkness could I explain
anything, anything at all.
I stood by the fence. And then

very gently it began to rain.

Hayden Carruth's "The Cows at Night," from Toward the Distant Islands: New & Selected Poems (2006) is used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

    Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.

    Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

    Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!

This poem is in the public domain.

I had not known before
    Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
    I had not heard.

‘Tis hard to learn so late;
    It seems no sad heart really learns,
But hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,
    And bleeds and burns.

The night is not all dark,
    Nor is the day all it seems,
But each may bring me this relief—
    My dreams and dreams.

I had not known before
    That Never was so sad a word,
So wrap me in forgetfulness—
     I have not heard.
 

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on August 8, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.