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.
He goes along,
in his thin flesh,
singing for love, battling for love.
He will go down,
in thinner flesh,
battling for love, dying for love.
He will be put away,
in a thin box
down a narrow slit
of the old earth,
growing for love, rising for love:
his initials carved
on a thin seed,
the carving as slow
as he was slow
carving his K on a song.
This poem is in the public domain, and originally appeared in Others for 1919; An Anthology of the New Verse (Nicholas L. Brown, 1920).
To a Political Shrimp, or, Fly upon the Wheel
The man that doth an Elephant pursue
Whose capture gains a mighty price,
Amidst the chace, heeds not the barking crew,
Or lesser game of rats and mice.
On ocean’s waste who chace the royal flag
Stop not to take the privateer;
Who mean to seize the steed, neglect the nag;
No squirrel-hunter kills a deer.
Reptile! your venom ever spits in vain—
To honour’s coat no drop adheres:—
To court!—return to Britain’s tyrant reign,
White-wash her king, and scowr her peers.
Some scheming knaves, that strut in courtly guise,
May vile abuse, through you, impart—
But they that on no Treasury lean, despise
Your venal pen—your canker’d heart.
When we two parted
In silence and tears,
To sever for years,
Pale grew thy cheek and cold,
Colder thy kiss;
Truly that hour foretold
Sorrow to this.
The dew of the morning
Sunk chill on my brow—
It felt like the warning
Of what I feel now.
Thy vows are all broken,
And light is thy fame;
I hear thy name spoken,
And share in its shame.
They name thee before me,
A knell to mine ear;
A shudder comes o'er me—
Why wert thou so dear?
They know not I knew thee,
Who knew thee too well—
Long, long shall I rue thee,
Too deeply to tell.
In secret we met—
In silence I grieve,
That thy heart could forget,
Thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee
After long years,
How should I greet thee?—
With silence and tears.
This poem is in the public domain.
The truth is that I fall in love
so easily because
a dozen times some days.
I've lived whole lives,
grown old, and died
in the arms of other women
in no more time
than it takes the 2-train
to get from City Hall to Brooklyn,
which brings me back
to you: the only one
I fall in love with
at least once every day—
there are no other
lovely women in the world,
but because each time,
dying in their arms,
I call your name.
From Boy (University of Georgia Press, 2008). Copyright © 2008 by Patrick Phillips. Used with permission of University Georgia Press.