Posts Tagged ‘death’

One Without a Path

no footsteps, no matter
there is nowhere, not even death,
where my love will not follow

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All Dressed Up

Before my father died,
he bought me a boxy
cream knit sweater
with crisp straight lines
and an elegant collar,
the kind of sweater
I imagine would be worn
by a woman more polished
than I. But my father insisted
on buying it, as if he
could see in me something
I couldn’t see myself.
Over a year after his death,
I still thank him every time
I slip my arms into the neatly
cuffed sleeves.
I thank him for dressing me
in his great belief in me.
It doesn’t matter
that I never left the house today—
that no-one else saw
how fine the weave,
how smart the cut.
If the sweater could speak
for my father, I imagine it would say,
Roxanne, you’re going to knock it
out of the park today.
All day as I do what life asks of me,
I am held by the love of my father—
a love that continues somehow
to grow. A love I still feel as close to me
as the sweater I’m wearing—
closer than that. Love as close
as the breath in my lungs,
as close as the words thank you
before they even reach my lips.

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Not Expecting

Tonight, I placed my hands on my belly
and recalled the first time I felt the flutter
of your body as it grew inside mine.
Oh, the thrill of that movement,
sweet proof of your being.
To be touched from the inside,
touched by life itself as it flourished
into trillions of cells. Oh,
to know life like that.
Even now, I can feel it,
the ghost of a kick,
can recall it as easily
as I recall sunshine on the skin.
After your death, is it strange
it feels like I carry you inside me again,
only this time I am the one
who is growing,
I am the one being formed.

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And here is the miracle—
to find in grief not only sorrow
but a ravenous gratefulness for life,
to find in loss not only emptiness
but an unimaginable abundance.
It doesn’t happen in a day,
no, not even in a year,
but who said miracles
need be instantaneous.

Today I skied through a veil of trees
and forgot for a moment
anything but trees, but skis, but lungs.
I want to tell you in that moment,
there was no one to remember,
there was no one to look ahead,
there was no one except the human
who knew to place the next ski in front
of the other, knew to trust
the ragged saw of her breath,
knew that life is only as beautiful
as death.

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What did you want to hear
when you knelt at his grave?

After you spilled your own words
into the afternoon shade,
what did you think you might hear
when you listened?  

By now you know the gift of listening
is greater than the gift of sound.
By now you don’t expect his voice.
You know my voice by heart.

I am not the sound of loss,
but the sound of infinite presence,
which touches equally
the living and the dead.

And I am what holds you as you speak.
I hold you as you say nothing at all.
In your listening, you join me
in the most intimate of conversations.

You rise. Together, we walk to the gate
then through the gate,
and long after you’ve left the grave,
I am with you.

In fact, I am the one thing
that will never leave you.


How do we fall in love the world, even when it feels difficult? In this 20-minute poetry reading, I explore this in poetry, followed by a brief conversation and Q & R. Hosted by the wonderful Larry Robinson. If you want info about more monthly poetry readings, AND/OR if you want to be a part of Larry Robinson’s daily poetry list (sharing the poems of others) you can write him and ask to be included at Lrobpoet@sonic.net

Poems from the reading:
The Letter I Never Wrote to Pablo Neruda
Making Breakfast with Dolly
No Slam Dunk, But
Though I Knew Love Before
It Comes Down to This
For the Living
You Darkness by Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. Robert Bly

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Since you died, every shooting star is you.
Not a sign, exactly, more like a reminder
you came into my life brilliant and brief.
More like a reminder to say your name out loud.
As if I don’t already say your name out loud
at least a dozen times a day.

Tonight while walking in the cold
I saw two shooting stars,
and it reminded me of a warmer night
when you and your sister and I
stretched our bodies side by side
on the cool pavement and stared up at the sky
hoping for meteors.

Did we see any? I don’t recall.
I only remember how happy I was then.
A small bit of that happiness
reaches through the loss.
It takes me by the hand,
walks with me through the dark.

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Because you are gone,
I will never again stand
in your doorway and listen
to the sound of your breath
as you sleep.
I can remember the way
it used to calm me—
the slow, even rhythm
that proved you were alive.
I used to laugh at myself.
As if you wouldn’t be alive.
How farfetched it felt,
the idea of your death.
Now, I hear the absence
of your breath everywhere—
everywhere is a doorway
where I find you are not.
And so I listen.

Sometimes it seems as if a silence
is breathing me,
and somehow, you live in that silence.
I don’t know how it works.
I only know that since you are gone,
sometimes listening feels like communion.
Sometimes when I am very quiet,
when there is no sound at all,
I hear you say nothing.
It’s everything.

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It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
—Linda Gregg, “The Presence in Absence”

I have no phone receiver to connect me to the other side,
but every day I speak to my beloveds through candle flame.
Every night, I speak to them through the dark before sleep.
I speak to them in the car when I am alone.
I speak to them when I walk beneath stars,
when I walk in the woods, when I walk in the rain.
It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
It is possible to feel what cannot be seen,
to sense what cannot be heard,
to be held by what cannot be touched.
It is possible for love to grow after death.
If there is a secret, it is, perhaps, openness.
The way air lets light move through.
The way a window invites in the scent of grass.
The way sand receives the ocean,
then, rearranged, lets it pass.

This poem was published in ONE ART: A Journal of Poetry on 9/11/22

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Relative Key

I paid extra for the bell
with a beautiful sound,
knowing we would ring it
one hundred and eight times
on the anniversary of your death.
I wanted it to be beautiful.
I wanted to play a sound
that would reach
to wherever you are
and offer you peace.
There are bells that ring
danger or failure or shame,
bells that clang with dissonance,
bells that toll only melancholy.
I have heard those bells.
But for you, my boy,
the bell we rang for you
pealed with a brilliant, shining ring,
a rousing chiming,
a surprising harmony
that opened the evening
with new light,
a ringing that rhymed
with new colors I’ve found in my heart—
the shimmering blue of enduring hope,
the glimmering gold of companioning.
I could still hear the blue
and the resonant gold
long after the bell stopped ringing.

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The Unheard

I do not hear his shrieks of laughter
escaping from his room.
I don’t hear his hand beating time against the table.
I don’t hear the luff of his breath
as I stand beside him while he sleeps.
I don’t hear the fear in his voice
when he begs me, please mom, please.

I hear the rain on the rooftop,
a morse code of love I don’t know how to translate
except in shades of green.
I hear cars on the highway,
and remember life is moving.
I hear the whir of the hummingbird wings
and the black notes of crows
and the silence where the boy
no longer grows.

If you ask me do I hear his voice,
I would tell you no.
But that is only partly true.
I do not hear his voice in words.
I don’t hear it the way perhaps I wish to.
But I hear him inside me, not a whisper,
but a voice that sounds startlingly like my own,
a voice that sounds like rain on the roof,
like cars on the highway, like hummingbird wings,
like crows, like the silence
where my love for the boy still grows.

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