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After Her Death

The sun misunderstands
and shines a gold circle on the carpet.

The laundry still needs washing.
Such strangeness—the fly

beats his body, iridescent blackness,
against the bright window. Across

the street a child yells wait, muffled beyond
the glass. The silent 20-year-old cat watches

the fly. One still, one repetitively
fervent, both the same outcome.


A Poem for Cindy after Her Nephew’s Death by Heart Failure at Age 16

I. The verbs dominate:

grieving and weeping and wishing.

They are uninvited soldiers who stay too long,

their leaden “ings”

wrapping around tired necks,

draping like weapons over hunched shoulders.


These soldiers ignore the signs to leave:

The pineapple rots on the mantle.

The broom rests by the door.

Tell them to go.


When will the nouns

return for you? The sun,

the blackberries, the salt?

Perhaps it isn’t the season quite yet.

Each month is

a little like September now,

its lingering aftertaste

like dusty ground.


Will you ever feel the same

about autumn leaves? About

pumpkins and the way they age so

defiantly on the front step?


The kitchen window

is the same

but not.

The streets laid out

in neat lines

are the same

but not.


The maple is tall and solid like his arms.

The cicadas quiet in the cul-de-sac as if they know.


Remind yourself:

People still love June;

human skin still absorbs the rain;

the highlands of Scotland still wear your footprints.



the nouns when

your voice returns,

feel them roll off your tongue

like the color white,

not ordinary, not an afterthought—

beautiful hydrangeas and mussels and clouds.


II. Whenever you can,




that solid white noun

that chant and prayer.

Say it

to those silent faces still heavy

with their verbs.Engrave

it at the tideline,


it into the wind;write

it into the dust on the desk,


it into the birch,


it in the air with your finger, whisper

it into the corner.


Become a nest, a one-syllable noun,

a resting place for him,

a place to build

your solace piece by piece

in your chest. Fill it

with bright things:

poppies and daylight and fragility.


Paige Riehl’s poetry and prose have appeared in several literary publications, including Meridian, the Saint Paul Almanac, South Dakota Review, and Nimrod. She won first place in the 2011 Literal Latte Poetry Contest and was a finalist for the 2011 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and a semifinalist for the 2011 River Styx International Poetry Contest. Paige was also selected for the 2012 Loft Mentor Series in Poetry sponsored by the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. She lives in St. Paul.