Poem: Good Deeds

Rachel Eliza Griffiths’s profoundly moving “Seeing the Body” is a journey of deepest attention and care. A collection dedicated to her mother, risen from infinite tenderness examining her mother’s life and death, these poems remind us again how impossible certain departures or absences feel. There is always more to know. Comfort comes through closest attention. Gone ones are still here in every relic of memory, every changed thought. “The world insists…” but what do we do with the “everything else” that remains? Some portion of us departs with our beloved ones, but more of us continues to contain them.

Good Deeds

By Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Then think of every song of love hurled at you & yours.
Recall how battered you were by sheer understanding
so that you might surrender. Not her being gone
but everything else. The world insists
you return. You go along with the house rules,
what the passage of sunlight means, a warmth
that is bold enough to burn the world alive.
I say I can’t remember how to be the same. I say
I can’t pretend to be that woman, the world,
or the love song you left behind your eyes.
I say that I am beginning to understand
the way my friends sing along inside of walls.

Naomi Shihab Nye is the Young People’s Poet Laureate of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Her most recent book is “Everything Comes Next” (Greenwillow Books). Rachel Eliza Griffiths lives in New York City. Her literary and visual work has appeared widely, and her fifth collection of poems, “Seeing the Body” (W.W. Norton, 2020), also contains a moving sequence of her photographs.

Illustration by R.O. Blechman

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