Lucille Clifton - Last Words


i am unforming
out of flesh
into the rubble
of the ground
there will be
new scars new tests
new "Mamas"
coming around

oh antic God
return to me
my mother in her thirties
leaned across the front porch
the huge pillow of her breasts
pressing against the rail
summoning me in for bed.

I am almost the dead woman's age times two.

I can barely recall her song
the scent of her hands
though her wild hair scratches my dreams
at night. return to me, oh Lord of then
and now, my mother's calling,
her young voice humming my name.

Edvard Munch - The Sick Child

The Sick Child (Norwegian: Det Syke Barn) is the title given to six paintings and a number of lithographs, drypoints and etchings completed by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944), between 1885 and 1926. All record a moment before the death of his older sister Johanne Sophie (1862–1877) from tuberculosis at 15. Munch returned to this deeply traumatic event again and again in his art, over six completed oil paintings and many studies in various media, over a period of more than 40 years. In the works, Sophie is typically shown on her deathbed accompanied by a dark-haired, grieving woman assumed to be her aunt Karen; the studies often show her in a cropped head shot. In all the painted versions Sophie is lying in a bed, obviously suffering from pain, propped by a large white pillow, looking towards an ominous curtain likely intended as a symbol of death. She is shown with a haunted expression, clutching hands with a grief-stricken older woman who seems to want to comfort her but whose head is bowed as if she cannot bear to look the younger girl in the eye. 
Throughout his career, Munch often returned to and created several variants of his paintings. The Sick Child became for Munch—who nearly died from tuberculosis himself as a child—a means to record both his feelings of despair and guilt that he had been the one to survive and to confront his feelings of loss for his late sister. He became obsessive with the image, and during the decades that followed he created numerous versions in a variety of formats. The six painted works were executed over a period of more than 40 years, using a number of different models.


the silence after the breathing machine is shut off.
the silence after waking from a dream of the dead.
the silence of a soul gone cold in my hands. 
the silence of our skins separating. 
the silence of the night touches
the silence of the morning and 
this is what we call life.


time is cruel to gravestones, 
dirt gets strewn on the granite, 
ants make homes in the rainwater-clogged vases. 
this monument to the dead is as vulnerable as the dead.
I come and clean the ants away, 
drown them in bottled water, 
scrub the dry mud from the letters of
your one unspeakable name. 
this is what a woman does: 
kneel on a godless earth and 
wash wash wash, 
make new the aged stone, 
breathe in the broken glass of her grief.

The Search For Language

words need to be found for this grief.
I've searched books.
the pages contain codes
that I do not understand.
prose is no easier than poetry,
neither one can give me the words. 
I consider images. 
an empty bed. 
the yard after it rains. 
birds, dark and wailing,
flying against an
intractable blueness.
images do not exist. 
metaphor serves no purpose.
this is real.
this is beyond your definitions.

"Home is Wherever I'm With You"

Home as something we find in other people, maybe even in ourselves. Home as not just tied to places. I've always been drawn to this idea. When we lose a person, we lose a home. We are displaced, dislocated in the world.

When my father died, one of the first things I wrote was that he was my home and that, without him, I had no home. And it's true. What is a life, a house, a family without him? 

An Ethics of Loss

I'm thinking about an ethics of loss and grief (Butler discusses this to some extent in her work on mourning). I truly believe that if we used loss as a lens through which to see the world and the people around us, we'd be more humane. Every loss of human life is so devastating. I wish we could truly feel the grief of that, a collective grief for all the people who are lost to war and poverty and lack of health care and racism and anti-transgender hatred and all forms of violence inflicted by the state. Why do we tolerate it? How can we create a world in which this kind of loss is intolerable? I want us to stop accepting death. I want us to stop turning away from it, saying "that's just the way it is." I want us to get enraged. I want us to say "no more."

Mourning Jason Molina

I think about Jason Molina at least once a day. He gnaws at me. I wonder how someone so gifted can no longer exist on this planet. It's interesting. I both found and lost him at the same time. His music came into my life, I was moved, I fell in love, I was haunted by his voice. It was an instant connection that so rarely happens with musicians. I had him and then I found out he was already dead, had been dead for months. So I loved him and then I mourned him all at once. His music is everything. It's devastating and eviscerating and melancholic and it tears you apart in the best possible way because, for me, art should do that. It should almost dismantle you. It should be that intense and shattering, at least the best art should.

Kevin Young - Charity

So many socks.

After the pair
the undertaker asks for
(I picture them black

beneath the fold
in your open casket,
your toes still cold)

what else to do.
Body bags
of old suits, shirts

still pressed, long
johns, the unworn,
unwashed wreckage

of your closet, too many
coats to keep, though I will save
so many. How can I

give away the last
of your scent? And still,
father, you have errands,

errant dry cleaning to pick up —
yellow tags whose ghostly
carbon tells a story

where to look. One
place closed
for good, the tag old.

One place none
of your clothes,
just stares as if no one

ever dies, as if you
are naked somewhere
& I suppose you are.

Nothing here.
The last place knows exactly
what I mean, brings me shirts

hanging like a head.
Starched collars
your beard had worn.

One man saying sorry, older lady
in the back saying how funny
you were, how you joked

with her weekly. Sorry
& a fellow black man hands
your clothes back for free,

don't worry. I've learned death
has few kindnesses left.
Such is charity — so rare

& so rarely free —
that on the way back
to your emptying house

I weep. Then drive
everything, swaying,
straight to Goodwill —

open late — to live on
another body
& day.


For the first time since my father’s death, I’ve put photographs of him in plain sight in my room. While cleaning out my closet the other night, I found the photos hidden away in a box. They were taken a few years before his death and they capture some of the happiest times of my life. I did not cry as I looked at the pictures, and I’m not sure why. I tend to sob at the mere thought of him. His face appears in my mind and I’m ruined for an entire day. Maybe my reaction is delayed. Maybe in a few days, I’ll break down. Or maybe I’ll put the photos away again, unable to see them on a daily basis. Still, I like his presence. I like seeing his face and his smile. I like remembering us together. I like knowing that I did have a father, that I did not dream him, that the years we spent together were real and beautiful. We were so happy. It almost hurts to see that kind of happiness--the kind you know you will never have again.