Some perspective

My Dead Daughter

Every spring
my dead daughter spraypaints
on the road where she died.

My dead daughter has a flute
at the grammar school
for kids who's parents can't afford
a flute of their own.

My dead daughter
sends fifth graders
to art
every year.

This year
instead of marching with them
my dead daughter is helping
send her classmates to college.

My dead daughter's
changing the world.

I always turn the radio

I always turn the radio
when I stop at the
by the white cross
where you died
I always turn the radio
some sort of ceremonial
moment of silence
I forgot
for the first time
to turn the radio
I was talking
to a new friend
can you forgive me
for forgetting
to turn the radio
and also
for living

by Robin Merrill from Laundry and Stories 2005 © Moon Pie Press.

(lifted from Writers Almanac)


the chocolatier said...

Is it bad that I think they're awful?

Sela Carsen said...

I think poetry, more than any other written art form, is subjective both in execution and intent. I find Frost's poem "Home Burial" better executed, but the intent -- the outlet of grief -- is the same.

I like them.

Lisa Cohen said...

Ah, but there is a simplicity and a directness here that makes these poems effective. One of the reasons I applauded both the selection of Billy Collins and Ted Koosier as poet laureates is their emphasis on accessibility in poetry.


Bunneh said...

I'm not entirely fond of them either, and I feel kind of heartless for wanting to point out that it should be "whose" and now "who's" in the first poem.

I feel obligated to like them, because they're about tragedy, but all I can think is that the first one sounds over the top and emotionally manipulative. And then I feel cruel for that.

The second one is just... meh. I've never dug the free verse stuff, and it seems kind of ... flat. *shrug*

Anonymous said...

I am still in shock this morning from the telephone call I received last night. My daughter called me around 2:00 a.m., hysterical, and told me that she was just in an accident. Her friends went to the lake Saturday evening, like a lot of kids her age, and were drinking. At some point, an argument over nothing happened and the driver insisted on leaving, with or without the others. The driver had too much to drink and continued to argue with her boyfriend and the two other passengers, one who was my daughter. The driver missed a turn and the car ran off the road, flipped three times and landed upright. Miraculously, nobody was seriously injured. My daughter and her friends were shaken. The driver tried to walk away from the accident, but she was arrested – not for drinking, but for leaving the scene of an accident. Does she even know how lucky she was to walk away? Does she even have a clue that she almost killed herself, her friends, and my daughter?

When I read the first poem, I started to shake because my daughter could have been the one telling people not to drink and drive. I am going to call my daughter again this morning tell her how much I love her.

Anonymous said...

They're gorgeous. Made me tear up. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I liked them, but I'm a touchy-feely kinda guy.
Might also have more resonance if you have a daughter....

Anonymous got quite a scare.
There but for the grace of God, go I.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the poems for their emotional nature, but as far as poems go I'm not a huge fan. Then again, I'm not a huge fan of most poetry in general. Still...your post heading, "some perspective" is very acurate regardless of the quality of writing.

under appreciated said...

Every spring
my dead daughter spraypaints
on the road where she died.

I liked that verse, but after that it didn't flow very nicely.

Marly Youmans said...

Here's two cents + comments on the question of how to judge the poems Mr. Keillor picks: http://thepalaceat2.blogspot.com/2005/11/test-of-good-keillor-pick-poem.html

Remodeling Repartee said...


I agree. I tend to prefer poets who work outside academia, like Koosier and William Carlos Williams.

I have never seen a more cliquey, snotty, politicky scene than American poetry at the highest levels. My critique group leader says that since there is relatively little money involved in poetry, the currency becomes something else; academic status, association, etc. Sometimes money makes things cleaner, and writers happier and more inclined to help their peers.

I highly recommend the poet, Spencer Reece's book, The Clerk's Tale. The title poem of the book appeared in a two page spread in the New Yorker last year, and won the Bread Loaf prize. But his work is amazing and accessable at the same time; delightful yet genuine. (In a ghazal, a snake refers to "my Scheherazdy (sp) body...").

He does not have an MFA. He is an assistant manager at a Brooks Brothers in Lantana, FL.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

The first peom is definitely from a parent. The second is from a boy/girl friend.

In the past year, there have been several unfortunate teens killed in our town, due to the misuse of alcohol.

I have seen many painfilled poems similar to these written by people who were not writers.

They were not trying to be eloquent, they were just expressing the pain that they were in.

There is a bridge near our local school that has, "We miss you Megs-03" painted on it.

Once a year the state highway dept. paints over it, and two days later it is back until the next year.

Sometime people just want to voice their pain.

Anonymous said...

People who are brave enough to voice their grief either get praise for walking that hard road or criticism for not getting over it already. There’s no in-between.

Shelbi said...

For me, poetry is about, "Do I get it?" and "Does it make me feel something other than annoyed?" These poems succeeded in both areas. But then, I know nothing about the mechanics and rules of poetry, and frankly could care less about them.

I liked 'em.

Anonymous said...

Poetry written from such strong emotion is always beautiful to me whether it's well written or not. I especially liked the second one. It's the truth of who the writer is at that moment when she realizes for the first time in two years and three months, she forgot to look at the clock at precisely 12:32 p.m. on the 24th and count how many months it's been. It's the moment she realizes she's still alive and if that's not perspective, I don't know what is.

Bernita said...

A poet does not have to have suffered that to have written those.
Poetry can be as creative as fiction.

Bunneh said...

Bernita: I think you hit the nail on the head on why I'm not keen on either of these (though I like the second better than the first). If the person/people who wrote the poems had experienced the tragedy firsthand, that would be one thing. They should be applauded for doing anything that helps them deal with their tragedy.

However, I agree with you -- poetry can be as creative as fiction. Writers and poets can imagine -- or try to imagine -- how certain things make people feel, and that's what makes the difference (for me, at least) between a heartfelt poem that helps the writer deal with tragedy and loss and heavy-handed emotional manipulation.

...Wow, I had no idea I was such a cynic.

Bernita said...

Two of us,Bunneh.
Empathy/identification/imagination is a writer's stock in trade.
I don't expect a novelist's hot, hot romance to prove she was a whore house madam or a promiscious layabout. Neither do I automatically assume a poet experienced the event they describe.

Miss Scarlett said...

"I always turn the radio" captures the guilt I've so often felt for continuing to live and breathe long after my sister died. Funny how the universe doesn't come to a screeching halt just because you think that it should. I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for posting these.

Unknown said...

As poetry, I prefer the first. I found it very powerful in form, substance and imagery

In the second one, the physical structure tried a little too hard to be 'poetry' and that got in the way of the emotion. Some simplification would give it a lot more power.

Not a huge contemporary poetry fan, but enjoyed them both very much. Possibly, my losing the two people closest to me when I was in my 20's has something to do with that, but even discounting that, I would want to read anything else either poet has written.

Anonymous said...

Ooookie dokie-- I believe this post was about perpective, people? Maybe a reminder to get our heads out of our aspirations long enough for maybe a brief moment of insight?

Save the critiques for your workshops-- there IS a world out there, I swear it.

Bernita said...

No need to scold. We know that, dear.Too well.

K said...

I love the second one's emotional impact, though I agree with Brady that the structure was distracting. Reminded me of the way I wrote poetry in high school, all broken up just for the sake of being broken up.