Mourning and Loss in Poems

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Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

 

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why (Sonnet XLIII)

Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 – 1950

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

 

Forever

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872 – 1906

I had not known before
Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
I had not heard.

‘Tis hard to learn so late;
It seems no sad heart really learns,
But hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,
And bleeds and burns.

The night is not all dark,
Nor is the day all it seems,
But each may bring me this relief—
My dreams and dreams.

I had not known before
That Never was so sad a word,
So wrap me in forgetfulness—
I have not heard

 

All the Names We Will Not Know

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

(for Adriana Corral)

Before dawn, trembling in air down to the old river,

circulating gently as a new season

delicate still in its softness, rustling raiment

of hopes never stitched tightly enough to any hour.

I was almost, maybe, just about, going to do that.

A girl’s thick dark hair, brushed over one shoulder

so regularly no one could imagine it not being there.

Hair as a monument. Hovering – pitched.

Beloved sister, maker of plans, main branch,

we needed you desperately, where have you gone?

Here is the sentence called No no no no no.

Come back, everything grants you your freedom,

here in the mire of too much thinking,

we drown, we drown, split by your echo.

 

Mourning and Loss in Poems
Joe, 1977

I had a poem that I really liked,
But I was in a somber mood last night.
I searched for poems of mourning and loss;
Some I kept; some I tossed.
I decided I’d go with Robert Frost.

I’ve always loved the poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,”
Then I read Sonnet XLIII by Edna St Vincent Millay.
She talks of kisses and boys who are gone.
Then Dunbar says, “That Never was so sad a word,”
And all my moods could clearly be heard.

I chose one last poem by N.S. Nye,
Because I wish I could have said goodbye.
He was a friend I cannot forget.
My mind races and runs and I am aghast,
For “I love you” we’re the words he said last.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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