Vox Populi

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Kate Daniels: The Poem

Niobe had just lost her son.
To help herself, she read a poem
to those assembled in the funeral home,
a poem about pain and mercy and mother love.
When it was over, she refolded the paper
along its newly creased lines,
slid it back in the pocket
of the blue jacket in the coffin.

Her hands busy folding and tucking,
her mind wandered back to six months before,
buying the jacket at a large store
in a shopping mall. A couple sizes
too big, so he could grow into it.
That was mercy: the price
and the purchase. The rest of it
and most of it was pain:
the creased lines of the poem
in the small blue pocket
and how quickly everything would turn to dust.

© 1998 Kate Daniels. From The Niobe Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998).

Kate Daniels’ many books include In the Months of My Son’s Recovery (Louisiana State University Press, 2019). She lives in Nashville, Kentucky.

9 comments on “Kate Daniels: The Poem

  1. Sean Sexton
    January 26, 2023

    Its difficult to simply say “fabulous” to a poem of this subject—to give praise to its beauty and economy as one might give a splendid piece of music or painting when its subject is so heartbreaking and difficult to reconcile at the moment of its apprehension.
    Let me say it anyway, having barely explained, —Fabulous.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      January 26, 2023

      I agree, Sean. The poem exists beyond praise, like a tree or river or another living thing.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lisa Zimmerman
    January 25, 2023

    I have cherished this book since I bought it over 20 years ago. I taught from it in a grad class on the elegy and the ode. I was finally able to tell Kate Daniels how much I loved the book at AWP in Portland in 2019.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Lex Runciman
    January 25, 2023

    This is a good one, and it hurts.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Barbara Huntington
    January 25, 2023

    So much pain in so few words. It seems nowadays it is harder for poems to touch me. This one did.

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on January 25, 2023 by in Health and Nutrition, Poetry and tagged , , , , .

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