Published on Academy of American Poets (

Were They Hands Would They Flower

Why are you grieving?

Because the others are grieving.

You are not compelled to grieve independently?

The grass needs raking.

The grass?

The leaves. I will build a fence to keep them from the sea.

Then will you help the others?

Tollers ring bells even the dead can hear,
a ringing such that I am bound to.

And the leaves?

When they are taken by the waves I give them names,
desiring in this act a homecoming
to which I am constantly denied
on account of other people’s prayers.


Copyright @ 2014 by Rob Schlegel. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on May 26, 2014.

About this Poem

“The tiniest things can send you reeling (back) into grief. But what if it isn’t back? What if instead grief could propel you forward into some other becoming? The more I inhabit songs like Sigur Rós’s ‘Ára Bátur,’ the more possible this seems. The crescendo late in the seventh minute pretty much wipes me out every time I hear it. Like the best poetry, ‘Ára Bátur’ simultaneously confirms and contradicts my own internal landscape until I’m finally ruined enough to see more clearly what might succeed grief.”

—Rob Schlegel


Rob Schlegel

Rob Schlegel is the author of January Machine (Four Way Books, 2014), which won the Grub Street National Book Prize in Poetry. 

Date Published: 2014-05-26

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