More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.
Copyright © 2017 by Ada Limón. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 15, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.
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.
Epiphany Davis, 1825
I set up my cash box and my bones and cards on Broadway, most days, offering what I see of what’s to come. For a donation, words fall from my mouth, surprising even me. Uncle Epiphany doesn’t forecast death or illness worse than gout or a broken bone. The sailors stop. They listen with caught breath as I tell them some girl’s heart is still theirs alone. (… or not. Young love is such a butterfly.) Girls come, arms linked, giggling behind their fans. The sad come. Uncle Epiphany does not lie. I close shop, and come back up here to my land. It’s a new world up here, of beggar millionaires: neighbors who know how we all scrimped and saved to own this stony swamp with its fetid air, to claim the dream for dreamers yet enslaved. I’m Epiphany Davis. I am a conjure-man. I see glimpses. Glass towers … A horseless vehicle … An American President who is half African … Until you pay me, that’s all I’m going to tell.
Copyright © 2015 Marilyn Nelson. Published with permission of Namelos Editions.
It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known—cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
This poem is in the public domain.
for the Women of the 19th Amendment
Praise their grit and gospel, their glistening
brains, their minds on fire. Neurons, numbering the stars.
Praise their bones. Their spines and skulls,
the axis, the atlas: I will not and I shall.
Their mouths, praise. Ridged palates
and smart muscular tongues, teeth, sound or pitted,
their wit and will. Their nerve,
and founded within the body. Honor
now their wombs and hearts, biceps and blood,
deep mines of the flesh where passion is tested.
Thank all twenty-six bones of their feet,
arches, heels, bunions, sweat,
marching the streets in high buttoned boots. Praise
the march. Praise justice.
Though slow and clotted.
Their hands at the press. The grease and clatter,
the smell of ink. Feel the sound
of their names in our mouths:
Susan B. Anthony
Dr. Mabel Ping-Hua Lee
Marie Louise Bottineau Baldwin
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Wilhelmina Kekelaokalaninui Widemann Dowsett
Praise their eyelids that close
and give rest
at the end of each long day.
Praise the work that goes on.
Copyright © 2020 by Ellen Bass. This poem was co-commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and the New York Philharmonic as part of the Project 19 initiative.
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –
And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,
As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here –
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –
Poetry used by permission of the publishers and the Trustees of Amherst College from The Poems of Emily Dickinson, Ralph W. Franklin ed., Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Copyright © 1998 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, by the President and Fellows of Harvard College.