Saturday, April 09, 2005

American Life in Poetry: Column 002


Many of us have felt helpless when we've tried to assist friends who are dealing with the deaths of loved ones. Here the Kentucky poet and publisher, Jonathan Greene, conveys that feeling of inadequacy in a single sentence. The brevity of the poem reflects the measured and halting speech of people attempting to offer words of condolence:

At the Grave

As Death often
sidelines us

it is good
to contribute

even if so little
as to shovel

some earth
into earth.

Copyright 2003 by Jonathan Greene. Reprinted by permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.


American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. For information on permissions and usage, or to download a PDF version of the column, visit

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