Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Good Death

Of words placed in their best black clothes. Of that darkness full.

Of the laugh, forged of dust that spilled its gold light into the tomb.

Of the wreath carved upon the copper vault.

Of the ivory city – bones like trumpets – blowing you away from us

      in song.

Of the city again where you will be welcomed by vultures.

Of the road between the dates, a short slash. An usher in a gold hat.

Of the pronunciation of sorrow, always, in summer. 

Of the snake who suffered the story.

Of the afterlife & its downpour of ordinary rites. 

Of rites I enact in my broken thoughts. 

Of my fever waving its anguish until the match goes out in disbelief.

Of the nine stars bleeding mercy beneath the roof of God.

Of God, God, & God.

Of the peace & suffering my people have been promised.

Of the clean, white clothes I gave the undertaker.

                               Here are the stockings, I said, not knowing

whether they would match her skin. 

Of the poems I’ve been trying to write. Die, I say. 

                               Go elsewhere for songs.

Of the food & the appetite.

Of my father’s shoulders in a black suit. 

Of downpour again.

Of the animals who charge me with horns

                               when I offer my clay ribs. 

Of her visitations.

Of the hot comb I cradled on my knees in the bathroom.

Of the brutal gospel of hair, untouched toothbrush, clothes

                                in closets with sale tags. 

Of dreams where my teeth scatter like maple leaves.

Of what I will never remember.

Of the rain that makes my howls float like empty bottles of glass.

Of the dreams where my white clothes grow flames.

Of what I will remember remembering.

Of the neon-colored nail polish on her hand

                              I held at her deathbed. 

Of what I hated to ask the night & gods.

Of the knees that remember the orange mud before the grass grew back.

Of you, Reader, looking at my face here & reading 

                               because we all want to know how to bear it.

Of the strange, caring question their voices poured like grace 

                             over my side where I was trying to leave. Get out of skin. 

Of it being over, again & again. 

Of it beginning.  They ask me was it a good death, was it 

                              a good death, was there peace for all of us. Why 

                              should I want peace instead of my mother?

Of the mothers who have always known while holding children 

                               in their wombs – why wasn’t I told? 

Now I walk into the sea with my jewel of anguish & shake those                            human flowers  

                                from my new, bald skull.



Found In Volume 44, No. 05
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Rachel Eliza Griffiths
About the Author

Rachel Eliza Griffiths is the author of Miracle Arrhythmia (Willow Books 2010) and The Requited Distance (The Sheep Meadow Press 2011). Griffiths’ third collection of poetry, Mule & Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose 2011), was selected for the 2012 Inaugural Poetry Award by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Her most recent full-length poetry collection is Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books), was published in 2015.