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Rebecca Weiner Tompkins: Mayday, Mayday

The white rain of petals that fell for a week is done.

What catches now in my hair

are the dried blossoms of the Callery Pear,

startling and crackly, as they float and scatter,

rattling through the trees to the street like

shards of bone sifted in dusty fingers

out of old earth. A young man I know is visiting

his wife’s grave a year after she died

and when he tells me his stories of what

the time has been—“where is your wife now?”

people ask; “dead,” he replies—his recollecting

is what saves me from another sigh for my recent

tiresomely trite grief, the mundane details of my life

which even led me to write: I want to stab myself in the heart

with a knife. It was that simple and stupid

as I woke up every day newly alone.


This morning after, those falling finished flowers,

the papery circles, parchment yellow, are deep

in the gutters and sidewalk gashes.

They’re so turned, so far removed from

the handfuls of fresh ones I once threw into

the night air and tried to run through

as they drifted sweeter than stars or first snow.

I am the only one out this early and surprised

to see a small figure, a woman who seems to be

picking through trash, but is actually

crouching outside the iron gate sweeping up

piles of the stiff petals into a sack.

Later she might sort and sell them

in another part of the city as a special tea, a remedy

for heartbreak, or the slightly different heart-

ache, urging those who long for a cure not to resist

the sharp taste, terrible and familiar, going down.

From King of the Fireflies (Sensitive Skin, 2018) by Rebecca Weiner Tompkins. Copyright 2018 Rebecca Weiner Tompkins

Tompkins is a poet and violinist who divides her time between New York and Nashville.

4 comments on “Rebecca Weiner Tompkins: Mayday, Mayday

  1. Jose A. Alcantara
    December 1, 2021

    What I love about Rebecca’s poem is how the speaker turns her gaze from her own suffering toward other lives, how she sees the man’s grief and the older woman’s industry. I think that’s what grief does best. It turns on our empathy centers and reminds us to look out and love.

    Nicely done.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Barbara Huntington
    December 1, 2021

    And when do we stop comparing grief? My petals are Jacaranda’s purple rain. The petals are ours. We watch them fall. We remember when their beauty had different meaning. This is such a beautiful and tender poem. Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on December 1, 2021 by in Poetry and tagged , .

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