my dead

I call them my dead,
not that they don’t still
belong to themselves
or to the universe now,
but they are mine
because when they lived
we walked together

& now I carry memories
from each of them
like small stones in my pocket
worn smooth by my fingers:

This stone is my father,
who died when I was on the cusp
of knowing him better.
Our eyesย are identical;
neither brown nor green,
but happy shifting between the 2 colors.

This is my grandmother,
who taught ย me herb-lore
& when to plant things
& how to write
an S.

This stone is hard
& still sharp on the edges,
and is my sister
who died too young:
we should still be arguing
& raising children together.

This stone,
deepest in my pocket
& warmed by body heat
represents my mother,
who we lost long before
her heart stopped beating,
& who I remember most
because at the end
I wasย her memory.

These are my dead
& I remember them
with joy, with tears;
with peace,
& with some anger.

If I could,
I would gather their bones
in 1 place
& pour wine
over the earth
that holds them;

not in worship
or fear, simply
in a gesture
of thanks-giving.

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.

58 Responses to my dead

  1. Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

    This is very beautiful!

    • Thank you so much!

      • Jeremy Nathan Marks says:

        I love the connections you are making here. I am going to have to let your poem sit with me and let it sink in. I found myself muttering how beautiful the emotions and images are as I was reading.

  2. Jeremy–thank you–sounds very much like the reaction I had to Chaparral Country–it floored me. I could find no words yet to articulate my response, and so just clicked “like–” in that case, a total cop-out.

  3. jeglatter says:

    Loved this one. Especially the end and I wish you could do it. Gorgeous.

  4. Thank you–I am still reeling from it. I think maybe this was what was bubbling along for so long when I wasn’t writing.

  5. unfinishedpractice says:

    Amazing, love the title. the sharp edges, carrying her memory. There’s so much to appreciate here.

    • Thanks. I have had flashes of this poem off and on for a long time, but was never able to capture it. Might have helped if I sat down with some paper and a pen, or even in front of the PC, to catch this before. Just glad it came to me again, when I was ready for it–as I was driving my car, of all times. By the way, my old editor’s comments carry an awful lot of weight for me, so I am pleased you liked this.

  6. George Ellington says:

    Beautiful and sincere. Well done.

  7. How you must love, how you must miss them! and you did not lose your mum before her heart stopped beating! you never ever lost her and never will! Beautiful poem!

    • That’s so wonderful to say, Noel, and I believe it ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think I have been carrying that poem around for a while, in my pocket ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Now I am blowing this away like dandelion seeds…..

  9. I selected this post to be featured on my blogโ€™s page at Poetry Blogs.
  10. brian miller says:

    nice…i like the thought of that ending ceremony…the wine over the bones to honor them…you do so in your examination of each of those stones you carry….really cool symbolism in that…used to keep a medicine pouch with stones…

  11. Mary says:

    Susan, this is very moving and depthful. I like the way you told a bit of the story of each of ‘your dead.’ I felt I got to know a bit about them through your words, and even more about the poet who shared these memories.

  12. Nice image of carrying the memories of the dead in stones of ‘prayer’

  13. Louise says:

    So evocative and moving…lovely writing ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. yelena says:

    a very heartfelt and touching write, Susan..enjoyed your poetic story very much. thank you for sharing ~

  15. Claudia says:

    If I could,
    I would gather their bones
    in 1 place
    & pour wine
    over the earth
    that holds them….wow…what a wonderful verse to say thanks to them.. good to carry and treasure their memories.. loved this susan

  16. ayala says:

    Beautiful…so good to remember them!

  17. I love it. Very moving. It reminded me of a poem I wrote about my two brothers who died a month apart and too early and was surprised to find I have never posted it on my blog. Maybe next week.

    I especially love the line for your sister and pointing out that sometimes we lose our loved ones before they die.

  18. Really nice job on this, reminds me of one I wrote a few months back (link here if you are curious to read it ) which started off with a call of ‘bring out your dead’. You did a much more elegant job of it here than I did, but I can connect totally having lost my mom when I was a child and both of my grandmothers at a similar time. All we can do is be thankful for the gifts they gave, well done Susan on a beautiful poem.

  19. I so loved this piece–everything about it—the idea of it, the execution, the sense of thanksgiving

  20. Very, very beautiful and heartfelt sentiments. I think we all have our pocket of stones, but you make them so priceless, so personal, so honestly described and shared. Excellente!

  21. Lovely reflections on the bonds and memories of family and loved ones ~ And your response is positive, full of thanks and joy of their gifts to you ~

  22. It’s so rare to read a poem which is both so sad and uplifting. I’ve read two tonight, and I think you’ve done a wonderful job with this tribute. Bravo.

  23. Beth Winter says:

    I have a pocket of stones, too. Beautiful.

  24. The act of memoir, of simple remembering, whether with token objects such as stone or bone, is a ritual gives itself meaning.

  25. Archna says:

    I love the ritual and the realistic simplicity in your gesture. Very beautiful and such a delightful comfort in your memories. ๐Ÿ™‚

  26. Steve King says:

    Your writing is so direct and personal here. The past is never really the past, and the dead are only dead in a sense, aren’t they. They are always with us, as you have so artfully shown.

  27. Susan says:

    “These are my dead
    & I remember them
    with joy, with tears;
    with peace,
    & with some anger.”
    And then comes the gathering and the wine of thanksgiving, very like the Mexican Day of Dead picnic in the cemetery. But here they are, Susan, you have gathered them here with detailed markings on each stone! Therein is the magic of poetry maybe especially magical if you don’t say so. Have you had your wine yet?

    I love this and wish I had written it for my own dead!

  28. dani says:

    breathtakingly beautiful!

  29. This is your thanks-giving poem for them.

    Gathering their bones upon a hill where the wine is always flowing and the summer lanterns dance in the breeze that picks up for the memories smooth, jagged and always there.

    one of my all-time favorite poems you’ve just written here.

    • oh, my. Thanking you so much. After I wrote this I just sat there, holding my head. It was a long time cooking. I felt like I had written the poem of my life…Means a lot that it moved you.

  30. Pingback: I am actually taking a tag…because this one is cool. | Susan Daniels Poetry

  31. boomiebol says:

    You write beautifully Susan…no, i am not stalking you. I said i would read all the poems you put on the tag list…just getting to do that now.

    It would be hard for me to come up with answers considering i just read your poems…but i shall try!

    Keep up the wonderful and beautiful poetry, i am a fan!

    • Oh, Boomie–you have wonderful, wonderful poetry out there to reflect on to come up with your answers! I appreciate you visiting my older poetry on here–you really, really, really read my post, and I am honored that you would read my picks ๐Ÿ™‚

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