Poem Begun on the Day of My Father's funeral and Completed on the first Day of the New Year

Light the last light and lift—
                                                                                                  and lift again in to that obscurity—

blue-skinned sky & what it cannot lead to—

                                                 the always immolated flesh of this world’s bone-shell—

what lasts? what goes like a trumpet blast

                                                                                                  through the feathered

                        ear of the angel? There

                                                                                                          & being & the evening air—

is in everything plummet—
                                                                                                                               & yet we go even some-
         times rise—have you wondered?

                                                                                                                               that dark wick—flame both
inward & below light the first fire—

                                                                                                                               what does not burn

                                                      might still die—& yet

                                                                                              what does not might grow—may graft—

                           like leaf & branch together—
                                                                                                                                              live this long lull
before the last:
                                                                let this
                                                                                                    let my words

leave their black axe next to the tree
                                                                                                                             & may
                         the grace
                                                of grace

feel through its fall

                                                                        the way—


Copyright © 2019 by Dean Rader. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 9, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My father died a few days before Christmas in 2017. In fact, the day we received the news, the day I returned to Oklahoma to help plan for his burial, was also the day my sons opened holiday gifts. So, his passing was an emotionally intense convergence of death and birth, celebration and mourning. On the day of his funeral, I kept thinking of Wallace Stevens’ “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour,” maybe the most comforting text I know. That night, after everyone had gone to bed, I began this poem. I think I was attempting a corresponding convergence, something that would unite the solace of Stevens with the sense of holiness I associate with the language of Gerard Manley Hopkins. And yet, I wanted a form neither comforting nor holy—something jagged, fragmented—something that might embody the brokenness I was feeling.”
Dean Rader