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Recorded for Poem-a-Day April 11, 2019.
About this Poem 

“I am often able to look more clearly at these wild and gorgeous trees growing old in the cemetery than when I try to see and accept my mother's young headstone. The work of this poem might be, today, to look at both with joy.”
—Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Elegy, Surrounded by Seven Trees

	for Michele Antoinette Pray-Griffiths


Ordinary days deliver joy easily 
again & I can't take it. If I could tell you 
how her eyes laughed or describe 
the rage of her suffering, I must 
admit that lately my memories 
are sometimes like a color 
warping in my blue mind. 
Metal abandoned in rain. 

My mother will not move. 

Which is to say that 
sometimes the true color of 
her casket jumps from my head 
like something burnt down 
in the genesis of a struck flame. 
Which is to say that I miss
the mind I had when I had
my mother. I own what is yet. 
Which means I am already
holding my own absence 
in faith. I still carry a faded slip of paper 
where she once wrote a word 
with a pencil & crossed it out. 

From tree to tree, around her grave
I have walked, & turned back 
if only to remind myself 
that there are some kinds of 
peace, which will not be 
moved. How awful to have such 
wonder. The final way wonder itself 
opened beneath my mother's face 
at the last moment. As if she was 
a small girl kneeling in a puddle 
& looking at her face for the first time, 
her fingers gripping the loud, 
wet rim of the universe. 

Copyright © 2019 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2019 by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Rachel Eliza Griffiths was born on December 6, 1978, in Washington, D.C. She received an MA in English literature from the University of Delaware and an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College.

by this poet

poem

I pick you up
& you are a child made of longing
clasped to my neck. Iridescent,
lovely, your inestimable tantrums,
I carry you back & forth
from the famine in your mind.

Your alphabet wraps itself
like a tourniquet
around my tongue.

Speak now, the static says

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2
poem

I wish I were like Johnny Cash
& thought my heart was mine.

I’ve worn a black suit
my entire life. It suits the war
my eyes ignite.

My sins sit on my lap,
bald, blind, desperate
for the mercy of lost roads,
glottal white lines.

Only smoke will take me
far to