Maya Marshall
Relentlessly Grief-Stricken and Enjoying the End of Spring Flowers

Apocalypse meaning: a great disaster.

This one is happening slowly (lobsters, a simmering pot).

There is time to course correct,

but group projects so often end in failure. 


I admit the end of spring flowers brings me joy


in this city forest. When summer reveals 

her toes in warm light, when snow recedes,

and frost-tender field marigolds cede way to coneflowers.


I admit I am relentlessly grief-stricken.

Transitions take so much. Take, meaning require, 

meaning dues, meaning something dies

so that something else might live.


Grief attends such parties.

You don’t need a list.

But here’s a gift: knuckles, first blood, a mother’s 

septuagenarian onion skin. A father’s delayed

understanding, menopause, human ash, impotence, 

pill bugs on their backs, other armors, 

other detritivores and decomposers. We all have jobs to do.

All moves on. Praise moving on.


I am relentlessly grief-stricken.


And enjoying seems a crime, infraction, betrayal—seems ungrateful (what’s the word

for when you know your bounty and it swells while your body double

shrinks with starvation, dehydration, for when your suburban sack                      race team sees a father hopping, heaving, having a cardiac event and the race 

goes on, while your voice is choked or you are screaming and your feet

are tangled in your own burlap and the screams you scream are                              drowned

by glee while a hospital falls in on itself because a powerful military’s                   bomb

was aimed at it and all of the children, pregnant women, elderly,                            infirm, healers

die inside the rubble, while progress inches forward and recedes like a                 chest rising

and falling, all breath moving “forward” until it ends? What’s the word for that?).


We could all be justifiably furious at all times,

but our nervous systems would fail. The flowers

are blooming in winter now and dying, instead, in spring.

This sane dynamic: Let fall all spent leaves and hopeful seeds. Let soil

rest and detritivores feed. Let storms calm and sustenance return

               the birds’

ancient migrations. Thoughts and prayers. Limp to a crowd, and sway it.


Call a tulip a totem. Call a genocide a genocide.

Let us think of nothing else but flowers

and the limp bodies of children. We cannot appreciate

life without its opposite. Lay a rose next to a corpse

and name what it takes to keep each one living. Observe

the pallor and ash against the hue of a petal. Note the tender lip

turned hard and the petal’s slow crinkling.


I am relentlessly grief-stricken.


The last gasp of man’s place in nature calls

me to the forest preserve, manicured and nursed

by volunteers. I trust the muscles of my thighs,

the arches in my feet and watch the cardinal flit,

watch as dusk descends in the late evening as spring

turns to summer. I know time will go on, summer 

then autumn will come. I will love the sapling 

of friendship. I will love the cicatrix on a family tree.

I will love the dying root for all it has absorbed and let pass.


I am grief turned fractal. Let fall the petals to the mouths

of millipedes, let compost feed waking dormant seeds.


Long live the spring, the spring is dead.




Found In Volume 53, No. 04
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Maya Marshall
About the Author


Maya Marshall, winner of the 2024 Holmes National Poetry Prize, is the author of the debut full-length poetry collection All the Blood Involved in Love (2022) and the chapbook Secondhand (2016). She is a cofounder of underbelly, the journal on the practical magic of poetic revision. She has had fellowships from MacDowell, Cave Canem, Vermont Studio Center and elsewhere. She is an assistant professor at Adelphi University.