Published on Academy of American Poets (

Funeral: For Us His Gold

after Gerald Stern

The insect was yellow with crumpled-black banded legs
        and shellacked back that would outlast us
        and wistful eyes from what I could discern on that trail
                between fields,
and we laid him out in the open air under a sky fast-blue with
                change, wedging
        a leaf beneath his triple-belted belly so he didn’t rest on
                plain dirt,
        and we placed two cloverblooms by his head and he was old
you said, could tell by how definite the stripes were, how
        the patterns bold and dark, almost engraved,
and he was beautiful in that pasture of thirty-three cows and we
        milk in the blaring heat and ate the cake you’d made. We
        the only humans there—unholy-seeming things with two
                legs, dismal histories—
drinking and eating around his elegant husk,
        and from the furze, fellow insects rose, a frenzied static
                around our bodies,
while he remained in situ an unremitting yellow, the color more
        vivid, louder now that he was a remnant. Was color the
                purpose here?
Yellow had alerted us to him, and we took care
        with leaf and clover to make his bed.
The insect’s gold our togetherness, its death from which we fed.


Copyright © 2018 by Alessandra Lynch. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 24, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“When I think of ecstatic experience, ecstatic poetry, Gerald Stern drifts into mind. When I think of reverence and respect and tenderness for creatures such as yellow bugs, Gerald Stern skates through my heart. When I beheld this beautiful dead insect in a pasture one summer afternoon, I joined Gerald Stern in chorus to celebrate, memorialize, and immortalize such life. In the communion, close observation and poetry ignite, our intimacy with one another and the world can deepen, transfiguring both death and life. Thank you, Insect. Thank you, Jerry.”
—Alessandra Lynch


Alessandra Lynch

Alessandra Lynch is the author of three books of poetry, including Daylily Called It a Dangerous Moment (Alice James Books, 2017).

Date Published: 2018-01-24

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