Tuesday, 31 January 2023

American Life in Poetry: Illusion

Kwame Dawes. Courtesy photo.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths has written poems and composed photographs in response to the loss of her mother.

She has always been fascinated by the exchange between birth and death that characterizes their relationship.

“Illusion” is doing the same work of connecting the haunting memory and spirit of her mother to her own awareness, her own mortality, and her turn to live and fill the space vacated by her mother.

I typically do not quote poets speaking of their work in this column, but I found this gem by Griffiths from an interview that seems a fit introduction to this poem: “With the death of my mother, the woman (myself) can’t go back out of the world until she mothers herself. I must go forward to my own beginning and to consider my own death.”

Illusion
By Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Waiting inside of the night,
I could make out the mound
& my mother's eyes, the blank embrace
of innocence when she returned
from the other side of the light
where everything wept
as it was loved & forgotten.
It's your turn, it's always
your turn,
the night says.


American Life in Poetry does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. It is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2020 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths, “Illusion” from Seeing The Body (W.W. Norton & Company, 2020.) Quote from “Anatomy of Grief: A Conversation with Rachel Eliza Griffiths” By Sarah Herrington, LA Review of Books, October 13, 2020. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/anatomy-of-grief-a-conversation-with-rachel-eliza-griffiths/. Poem reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2022 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Kwame Dawes, is George W. Holmes Professor of English and Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner at the University of Nebraska.

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