'All day we packed boxes. We read birth and death certificates'

entry picture

Jill Bialosky is a New Yorker, an editor at WW Norton, and a daughter grieving the loss of loved ones. It's unusual for us to print two poems by one poet, in sequence, but this one and the one I selected for next week go very well together. They're from her new book The Players, from Knopf.


by Jill Bialovsky


All day we packed boxes.
We read birth and death certificates.
The yellowed telegrams that announced
our births, the cards of congratulations
and condolences, the deeds and debts,
love letters, valentines with a heart
ripped out, the obituaries.
We opened the divorce decree,
a terrible document of division and subtraction.
We leafed through scrapbooks:
corsages, matchbooks, programs to the ballet,
racetrack, theatre - joy and frivolity
parceled in one volume -
painstakingly arranged, preserved
and pasted with crusted glue.
We sat in the room in which the beloved
had departed. We remembered her yellow hair
and her mind free of paradox.
We sat together side by side
on the empty floor and did not speak.
There were no words
between us other than the essence
of the words from the correspondences,
our inheritance - plain speak,
bereft of poetry.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem © 2015 by Jill Bialosky, 'The Guardians,' from The Players, (Alfred A Knopf, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Jill Bialosky and the publisher. Introduction © 2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-06.



◄ Write Out Loud Woking at the New Inn tonight

A happy return: Rhythm & Muse flies flag again to mark 10th anniversary ►


Profile image

M.C. Newberry

Tue 12th Sep 2017 16:12

For those who have faced this situation these lines will
chime a mournful note, yet the content is also life-affirming
in its insistence on completing - with consideration and care - the closure of a life.

If you wish to post a comment you must login.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

Find out more Hide this message