What May Be Brought You, As One Dying; What My Father Left (Me); Dear Melody

More wonderful selections from the poetry contest:

What May Be Brought You, As One Dying
~Ruth F. Harrison

5 books of poems and a chocolate egg,
yellow flowers and water

pancakes with syrup and 10, 093 pills,
1, 093 summer fall spring mornings
on the road in your wheelchair:
blue chickory blossoms, a wild sunflower
77 picnics, your daily teeth, 4, 372 Depends
with accompanying fresh sheets. Crisp toast.

Your daughter may read aloud to you
what you have saved and written of your life;
you hear it as a pleasant sound, perhaps as events
passing, almost familiar, words voiced by a stranger

written about someone who doesn’t much
interest you. They may bring you poached eggs,
custard, clean hair, clean floors, may stand
inside the privacy of your bathroom, waiting.
A small child may teach you how to count
your fingers, a strange man may rub your ankles,
may whistle over the milk buckets on the porch.

That woman may rearrange your own kitchen
and hide your glasses and your other hat.
Someone will hand you a small dog and
take away your wedding-gift scissors. You

may be given wooden beads and fabric, a gray
kitten, the sounds of roosters crowing, a blue
jar-lid with WHIP WHIP WHIP repeating all
around it, a yellow cube with grouchy or sad faces,
a handmade calendar of very big days. Oh you

who gave so much, you must expect that some
of it, wanted or no, will now return to you.


What My Father Left (Me)
~Jordan Grumet

It wasn’t as
if the taste of things
had changed
Bitter fallow top
soil, the earth’s corrosive
Death was still….
and life…ah
by filial
And poor,
poor Achilles
nay exploding
in my


Dear Melody
by Rachel Swirsky

When we floated together in our mother’s womb,
I consumed you as one scared thing
will do to another in this lonely world.

My guru, David, says your soul is beautiful.
An artist’s soul. A dancer’s soul.
He pressed his face to my belly
& said he could see your aura
shimmering through my abdomen
lovely as a mirage.

I feel you when I sit in my organic co-op chopping kale
& dreaming about murals you’d have painted.
I feel you when I hear a homeless man melt joy
like rich warm caramel into his saxophone’s strains.
You beg me to slip off my moccasins
& dance barefoot on concrete.
It was you who wanted to dye my hair magenta,
wasn’t it?

Paris, my hypnotherapist, says understanding past sins
is the first step toward karmic equilibrium.
In her office behind the acupuncturist’s, she regressed me
back through memory’s folds to the time
when you and I embraced in our mother’s belly.

Yearning gaped in my essence
like the universe hungering for God.
The cells that were me transmitted that hunger
to the cells that were you
& your kind soul, your beautiful soul,
offered yourself to fill me.

I felt an echo of that hunger last night
as I lay with David on the beach
salt air lapping our skins, thighs pressed
into the timelessness of granite cliffs
worn by millennia into humble fragments of sand.
Gulls cawed, seals chorused, waves murmured,
the cosmos rumbling its approval.
David slipped his hand down my belly & tried to fill
my lingering emptiness.

Handless, tongueless, you took part as you could,
sending an egg with your DNA into my uterus
where David’s cells waited, ready to make
the child only we three could conceive.

For a moment as he filled me
as you filled me
I became one with the universe that is you & me & him
& kale & communes & murals & barking seals
him me you becoming
an endless recombinantion of souls & DNA
together miraculous
like clashing weather fronts birthing the wind.

Most people live forever terrified
the universe will abandon them
to the frozen pall of solitude.
I am so lucky to be twice filled
twice reassured I will never be alone.

Melody, I promise:
Our baby will learn
to paint & dance.


7 thoughts on “What May Be Brought You, As One Dying; What My Father Left (Me); Dear Melody

  1. Jondean

    Ruth, yours is absolutely wonderful! They’re all wonderful, actually. I’m so honored to be able to read these. 🙂

  2. Ruth F. Harrison

    Thank you. I’m glad the poem speaks to someone besides family members who shared that period. I think “What My Father Left (Me)” by Jordan Grumet is fine, a strong poem. And Rachel, I like your poem well, especially the conclusion, which is right and true and simple. Good work! Kudos to you both.

  3. Rachel Swirsky

    Thanks for providing a forum for this, Dr. Charles!

    Jordan, the first three lines of your poem are a powerful hook.

    Ruth, I love the layered material details in “What May Be Brought You,” particularly presented as crisp moments from a perspective that’s foggy and diffuse. The last four stanzas are especially striking.

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