For Terry
2020 Merit Award
By Joshua Hilderbrand

The day you died I woke up at 530 am. Brushed my teeth
in a metal shipping container with no windows.
The day you died I got ready. Uniform/Boots/LBV/Kevlar.
I wore both plates, front and back.
The day you died we loaded the truck
full of letters/packages/cookies
from home, whisky smuggled in teddy bears, art supplies.
The day you died we were delayed by a suicide bomber.
This was the first time, that day,
I would think about my own death.
The day you died we drove our route.
RPG’s/roadside bombs/ small arms/mortars.
A few of the packages flew into the road.
The day you died we killed 13 people.
My knees knocked while in the box formation.
The day you died it was still dark in Spokane. In Iraq,
the sun was working over my face.
The day you died you tried to hold on until sunrise.
Maybe you thought the pills would be slower.
Maybe I didn’t let go in time.
I didn’t know you needed the morning
pinks and blues. I just needed to see through the smoke
long enough to get back into the truck and drive home.
My knees wouldn’t stop knocking.

*Copyright 2020 by Josh Hilderbrand. Broadside illustrated Kim Wulfestieg.

The Bear*

January 17, 2021

2020 Walk Award
By Suzanne Harris

If grief is an animal, make it a bear
hibernating cold and hard
in the back-cave of your heart.
In the restlessness of spring,
groggy, hungry, it will rise without warning
gnawing its pain straight through.
There will be no escape
for the soft pulsing of your heart
torn and bled by that bear’s sharp incisors.

Grief, the sinner’s corsage —
unresolved guilt, moments which cut like a knife, then
bleed the loss across frozen expanses of forward-time
dancing with shadows from the past.
Memories sharp like razors slice your disbelief
to emptiness, sullen and alone.
The wind, such cool relief, blows
atoms of your loss across the frozen plain.

Some day you will rise above that bed of sorrow,
the sky so blue and bright
all you can see is white, miracle of sun light.
That bear, sated in the warmth
will sit amongst ripe berries on high hills,
at peace, at one, at last.

*Copyright 2020 by Suzanne Harris. Broadside illustrated by Megan Carroll.

THE CITY was founded to respond to the crisis in local news across New York’s five boroughs. One of The City’s initiatives is to “reimagine the way we say goodbye. In a time when our rituals around death have been interrupted and we cannot gather in-person, we want to bring New Yorkers together to tell and listen to the stories of those we’ve lost to COVID-19.”

Today, Friday, December 11, 2020, at 3:00pm Pacific, you can join the free, online MISSING THEM Memorial Event with poetry readings from Ellen Bass, Ross Gay and Aracelis Girmay, presented by Brooklyn Public Library and THE CITY. RSVP for access information.

Sudden Thoughts*

November 5, 2017

2017 Merit Award
By Aysha Burney, 11th Grade

She was like a Sour Patch Kid
Sour without sleep, then sweet
So innocent, and loving
Shaped like a plumb who
Sat in the chair from
Sunday to Monday
Sadness appeared when
She left my life
Soaring in the sad grey sky
Say goodbye to the love of my life
                         Rest in peace, Grandma

. . . . .
*Copyright 2017 by Aysha Burney. Broadside illustrated by Mat Hudson.

The Following Monday*

October 9, 2016

The Following Monday by Roger William Gilman
2016 Merit Award
By Roger William Gilman

The Following Monday: a Grief Observed
For my mother, dead on Wednesday, buried on Saturday

I stop walking      and look down.

Beneath my boots
the black leaves and red needles
having lain long
in the ruts of the logging road
create a chicory tea
from a stream of sunlight
flowing through the late hemlocks and maples
in this small ditch
filling with seeping water,
steeping a puddle of feeling without meaning
beneath a broken gray and gilded sky,
a tea for one not newly come to love, one
whose memory does not easily fall away.

I stop dreaming      and look up
interrupted by a wedge of geese
flying back the other way — home.

. . . . .
*Copyright 2016 by Roger William Gilman. Broadside illustrated by Kim Wulfestieg.


June 15, 2014

Suzanne Harris - Father
by Suzanne Harris
2014 Merit Award

It seemed like time froze
that cold clear January day
when you lay dying
and I drove
one hundred miles
to sit by your bedside
and sing, and read, and cry.

After you were gone
the rains came — tears
pouring from the sky.
I cried as I drove home
through wild wind and spray,
while the skies sobbed
their condolences.

Later, sorting out
the loss and the grief,
it snowed; as if winter
held her breath
just for me
while I journeyed
that season of sadness.

. . . . .
*Copyright 2014 by Suzanne Harris. Broadside designed and illustrated by Anita K. Boyle, Egress Studio.

a place for expression

April 10, 2014

Poetry for Oso

The region and the world continue to be gripped by the terrible news of the Oso mudslide and the ongoing recovery efforts. Now, the new Washington state Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Austen, has extended an invitation to poets everywhere: “Offer a Poem to Communities Affected by the Oso Mudslide.” Visit the Washington State Poet Laureate page, the Art with a Heart Tumblr page (where you can post your poem) and see Governor Inslee’s declaration.
(Thanks to Jennifer Bullis for spotting this one.)

on poetry…

December 15, 2012

“Poetry gives the griever not release from grief but companionship in grief.” Donald Hall


June 3, 2011

2011 Merit Award
Jesse Kennemer - Vigil - 2011 Merit Award

By Jesse Kennemer, 11th grade

For Kourtney Cadle (1993-2010)

If you had sat with your hands on your knees,
Under the peeled red shelter
Of the football grandstand,

Let your eyes close
While you took in the chorus,
Voices cracking under the weight of buckled souls,

If you had felt the mist
Of unrelenting rain,
Soak through the denim and cotton that clung to you,

Sheltering in both hands a single white candle,
Refusing to let the wind
Extinguish your flickering flame,

If you had clenched your jaw tight,
And counted the kind words you had spoken
On one hand,

Then you would have let your right arm wrap around her.
You would have felt her shaking and hoped to God
She would stay Whole.

*Copyright 2011 by Jesse Kennemer. Placard design by Egress Studio.

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