Form of Death

I kneel before you
Grass imprints on
My hands and knees

Hot, summer air
Cooled by the dark night
Encompasses me
Like the blanket of your arms did

I come before you
Seeking solace in

Petrified of future
Clinging to past
Not ready to let go

I lay down
Spread on the ground above you
Rocking back and forth

The soil cushions my tears
Like your old, cotton shirts
Used to
As I bury my soul in it
Willing it to cut through the ground
So that you can hear me

The dirty, gray, aging stone
With letters etched into it
Tries to tell me you’re not here anymore
But I feel you

Water begins to fall
From an open sky
The soil turns to mud and
The clouds flood the horizon
Corresponding to my sinking low

Anguish emanates from me
And I cry out
Sit up
Drape yourself over symbols of you

Finding comfort in songs of death

Until I look up and see my own
Staring me in the eyes
With the outline of a


Written in 1998 after a visit to my grandfather Alfred’s grave.

This April, I’m posting a poem a day in honor of National Poetry Month. I was a sophomore in high school when I wrote my first fractured poem. It started out rhyming, but when I shared it with our school’s Creative Writing teacher, Ms. Shelton, I had a terrific break through. She pulled out the writer in me, and it was as messy as giving birth, and this poem was just the first of many she’d use to teach me how to write well and with meaning. She started mentoring me before and after school, though I wouldn’t take her class for another two years, and twenty-five years later, I still teach my budding writers that every poem is a MADAM – the most acceptable draft at the moment.

Ms. Shelton, you changed my life when you taught me that a journal was the companion I needed most.

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