Some think subjecting a poem to interpretation is the surest way to destroy its mystery and pleasure.  For a wry take on that point of view, see “Introduction to Poetry,” by Billy Collins.  Others have made lives out of decoding what poetry means.  See Harold Bloom for that particular slant. With that preamble, we will say it would be a shame to read this stirring poem by Hatsy McGraw without noticing the reference to sound or music in every stanza.  Only a master poet could so subtly bring us into the silence that remains after a loved one has gone.



By Hatsy McGraw

The refrigerator hums a predicable melody
in this house filled with complicated music.
The scent of cleaning fluid bombards us at the door—
no room for germs while she lay dying
in the mechanical bed’s crooked arms.

We empty closets, basement, random shelves and corners,
out of focus, unable yet to comprehend her life’s compartments:
photos thrown in a cloth-covered box, hundreds of pictures;
places she’d been, people we’d never seen,
each open drawer offering a miniature version of her discordance.

We toss spoiled food, sort stale spices, wonder
how anyone could consume 16 oz. of cayenne in a lifetime.
She might have used it to jazz things up—
more likely for dyspepsia or for her heart.

We fill big, green bags with clothes,
drag them by carload to church,
books to the library sale.
We call a social worker for advice,
how to orchestrate disposal of toxic meds.

Silk flower arrangements, plastic plates, a flattened rubber raft—
the excess, so much waste, tossed in the garage.
Tomorrow we’ll hear staccato beeping as the garbage
truck backs up, and we’ll have to pay the fee to haul it all away.


Reprinted with the poet’s permission

Hattie McGrawHatsy McGraw has published poems in several journals, including Bloodroot, Hanging Loose, The Salon, and Across Borders. Two of her poems appeared in the anthology Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont. Her poem “Neighbors in the North End” won the Robert Penn Warren Prize for free verse in 2004. A graduate of Vermont College’s Writing for Children/ YA program, Hatsy lives with her husband, painter Tom McGraw, and their two cats in Hartland, Vermont.


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