[ToC]

 

FOR MY DAUGHTER ON THE DEATH OF HER NEW LOVE

Leslie McGrath

Write his name in honey
looping your spoon
over the breadboard

*

Lay him down
dark-sweet and still

*

Let your tongue
have him

*

Each generation
believes
it invents love

invents grief

*

Two white
boutonnieres lie
in my widow’s chest

*

The dead
sad daughter
are portable
        

     

 

 

 

 


__

After a number of spectacularly bad relationships, my daughter Elizabeth fell in love this spring. She talked about him constantly and I could see her blossoming. A few weeks into the relationship, he was found dead in his bed. This poem is both elegy and sad reassurance that grief visits us all, and that we carry the dead with us. I've always loved Rilke's lines "If you can bear it so, be dead among the dead./The dead are occupied." There's something lilting and final in that last line. Mesmerized by its rhythm, I played on it.

I'm an unrepentant food obsessive and most of my poems are built on, around, or within the stuff. I'd known that honey was used in the preservative potion for Eygptian mummies, but I learned while reading Mary Roach's great book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, that there was a medicinal preparation made called "mellified man" where a cadaver was left to steep in pure honey for a long period of time, the resulting concoction used both as a poultice and orally. Apochrphal? Hopefully. Gross? Definitely. But it speaks to the age-old and ever-fluid boundaries between body and food.