Victoria Chang and Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Posted in 2021-2022 Readings and Talks
April 12, 2022 at 7:00PM ET
Moderated by Carolyn Forché
Location: Riggs Library (3rd Floor Healy Hall)
OBIT [The Blue Dress]
The Blue Dress—died on August 6,
2015, along with the little blue flowers,
all silent. Once the petals looked up.
Now small pieces of dust. I wonder
whether they burned the dress or just
the body? I wonder who lifted her up
into the fire? I wonder if her hair
brushed his cheek before it grew into a
bonfire? I wonder what sound the body
made as it burned? They dyed her hair
for the funeral, too black. She looked
like a comic character. I waited for the
next comic panel, to see the speech
bubble and what she might say. But her
words never came and we were left
with the stillness of blown glass. The
irreversibility of rain. And millions of
little blue flowers. Imagination is having
to live in a dead person’s future. Grief is
wearing a dead person’s dress forever.
Originally published in Poem-a-Day by the Academy of American Poets.
Read more about Victoria Chang.
Seeing the Body
—Rachel Eliza Griffiths
She died & I—
In the spring of her blood. I remember
my mother’s first injury. The surprise of unborn
petals curling light, red, around her wrist.
Some fruit she cut, some onion, some
body with skin & seeds. She fed me.
She listened & I—
She held We & I—
She kept speaking with those flowers
falling from her blood, taking her
across the sky to death. I remember
her voice like a horn I never want
to pull out of my heart. In the next life,
which is here & here, I gather every thing
that ever sang my mother’s blues.
She burned & I—
She talked back hard at god.
O, she danced, unbroken, too.
Bale of grief on my back, opening
into something black I wear. A life of flesh
like a petal or fruit or burning.
I’ve carried everything & I’m tired.
She survived & I—
(But she did not live.)
She told me Nothing & I—
She was waiting the entire time.
How does the elegy believe me?
Together, we crossed the sky.
There was a gate & we walked through
the world like that.
She wrote We & I—
She was last seen & I—
Eyes, without life, opened eternity.
When the air in her
stopped & I—
She was last seen dying. She was too silent
for the first time in her life. The spring
of my mother’s blood hot & god the dark
dark beyond the closed door
that won’t move again.
Originally published in VQR. From Seeing the Body (W.W. Norton, 2020)
Read more about Rachel Eliza Griffiths.