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American Life in Poetry Column No. 478

Peter Everwine is a poet whose work I have admired for many years. Here is a poem about an experience many of us have shared. Everwine lives in California, but what happens in this poem happens every day in every corner of the world.

After the Funeral

We opened closets and bureau drawers

and packed away, in boxes, dresses and shoes,

the silk underthings still wrapped in tissue.

We sorted through cedar chests. We gathered

and set aside the keepsakes and the good silver

and brought up from the coal cellar

jars of tomato sauce, peppers, jellied fruit.

We dismantled, we took down from the walls,

we bundled and carted off and swept clean.

Goodbye, goodbye, we said, closing

the door behind us, going our separate ways

from the house we had emptied,

and which, in the coming days, we would fill

again and empty and try to fill again.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2013 by Peter Everwine, from Listening Long and Late (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2014 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

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