if the dead do anything underground while they dream they do not learn, but remember

i do not worship bones
or light candles on graves
like i saw on all soul’s day
after sunset
when i was a child.

living
across the street
from the oldest cemetery
in town, riding bikes
on those quiet drives
and memorizing the names
of children carved in stone
freed me of worry
about those who sleep.

laughter does not wake them
or candles.
if the dead do anything
underground while they dream
they do not learn, but remember.

my daughter holds her breath
when we walk past a graveyard
afraid she will breathe spirits
but that is not how haunting starts.
if i could, i would haunt you
alive,
my ghost calling to longing

not fear.

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About Susan L Daniels

I am a firm believer that politics are personal, that faith is expressed through action, and that life is something that must be loved and lived authentically--or why bother with any of it?
This entry was posted in New Free Verse and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

57 Responses to if the dead do anything underground while they dream they do not learn, but remember

  1. davidtrudel says:

    Excellent piece – so many of us see death and cemeteries so rarely that we’ve become disconnected with this very natural process.

  2. Trent Lewin says:

    Like the bit about your daughter, seems like a thing for a kid to do. I was in Queens NYC a bit ago, and there are like cemeteries everywhere, it was crazy. Great pre-halloween posting.

  3. Beth Camp says:

    Wow! This poem vibrates with beauty on every line. It’s one I want to print out to read again these words, appreciate the rhythm, the mood, the mystery of death and love and innocence, the tight connection with those we love.

  4. mimijk says:

    Magnificent in every way Susan..this is a keeper!

  5. I like your take on death and the way we as individuals all have our different reactions to it – especially children. And ghosts can be living just as easily as dead….

  6. Rhonda says:

    The ending especially. :) Beautiful in every way SFAM.

  7. Green Speck says:

    “my ghost calling to longing not fear” – amazing !!!

  8. brian miller says:

    if the dead do anything
    underground while they dream
    they do not learn, but remember….nice line….funny, i grew up with a graveyard in the backyard…a family cemetery…used to go there to write when i was younger….at night even…they dont hold much fear for me…actually pretty comforting…

  9. I lived near a Jewish cemetery in Prague as a young teen. I identify with this and know the fear. Excellente.

  10. poemsofhateandhope says:

    Oh this is great…fear of death and the dead…something we all have to face at some point….but i really love the way you tackle it…both in the adult and the child, the part about the little girl being afraid to breathe in spirits- i can so believe this…reminds me of writing letters to santa and then throwing them on the fire so that the smoke would go up the chimney and get blown to Lapland…..but in closing, the poem resolves itself positively (in my opinion) and shows that actually death ISN’T something to be scared of….

  11. nephiriel says:

    “my daughter holds her breath
    when we walk past a graveyard
    afraid she will breathe spirits”

    absolutely LOVED this part!
    good way of seeing death, great poem.

  12. I like the last stanza Susan ~ Holding one’s breath out of fear or longing, different reactions to images of death ~

  13. Mary says:

    I like the ending:
    ‘if i could, i would haunt you
    alive,
    my ghost calling to longing
    not fear.’

    I am torn between two different interpretations. (1)One living person ‘haunting’ another living person…..as he / she longs for / desires that person. (2) A living person ‘haunting’ a deceased person, wishing he/she could bring the other back.

  14. I would haunt you alive…. wow

  15. ManicDdaily says:

    A lovely poem – I especially like the stanza of your daughter fearing breathing in spirits. You know I live in downtown NYC and now walk by Ground Zero almost every day – I didn’t write about it but of course, a big deal in times past in terms of that wonder of what one was breathing. k.

  16. doncarroll says:

    Great piece. Loved how the ending came to be.

  17. kkkkaty says:

    Thanks for the lift at the end….certainly would save a lot of energy if we felt death and cemeteries were simply part of living ..how fun to visit people and hug them if we could!

  18. so interesting that you biked on the graveyard and memorized the names and how your daughter is afraid of breathing in spirits.. i used to go to the little village cemetery a lot to water the flowers and always found it a peaceful place…really like your poem susan

  19. Mohana says:

    very well written…there is the fear and also a strange sense of calm here.

  20. i so love this, Susan, from the title through the last word! wonderful writing!

  21. Sabio Lantz says:

    Very nicely done. Ah the curse of a mind that imagines spirits and ghosts — the price we pay to know self.

  22. nelle says:

    Nice… cemeteries, I too grew up near one, live near it still. Lots of memories of doings and antics there.

  23. As I have gotten older I have found it harder to accept many of the superstitions surrounding the dead. I know most times we hold these beliefs out of reflex rather than thought, but I find that I am attracted to what you could call the “demystification” of death. I like reading things that are honest about feelings, about the deprivation of loss and about the total lack of knowing we have of what happens beyond death. I think I appreciate realism the most when reading about death. . . so I enjoyed this very much.

  24. Nowadays, kids are no longer afraid of ghosts and cemeteries.

    if i could, i would haunt you
    alive,
    my ghost calling to longing not fear.’ Fear that which is living. Well done, Susan.

  25. myrthryn says:

    I believe the biggest reason we bury/cremate/etc our dead is so that, while we remember the death of the loved one, we don’t have death itself (rather, our own death) thrown in our faces on a daily basis as we see the decay of the deceased. Nowadays, death has become so clean, so sterile, that even our emotions are removed in the presence of the deceased.

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