If poets are supposed to write of death
then let me O! poetically regret
the beating heart abruptly stopped, the breath
that falls like lead upon the coverlet.
Let me intone the soft and wistful sighs
attendant on unwarranted demise;
and taste the tear that springs up unawares
when I espy the newly emptied chair.
But let me less poetically observe
the ragged edges on the human soul
where death has torn an ever-opening hole;
the place where long ago I lost the nerve
to calculate the agonizing cost
of lives I’ve loved to endless mystery lost.


Jeffrey Essmann’s prose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and numerous magazines and literary journals, his poetry in America Magazine and Dappled Things. He lives in New York City.

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6 Responses

  1. David Hollywood

    Absolutely wonderful, and for me a great parallel reminder of Purcell’s ‘Dido’s Lament’. Beautiful

  2. James Sale

    They are not supposed to, Jeffrey; they are compelled to; and if they are not compelled, then they probably have nothing to say about it. In this case I found your poem, wistful, beautiful and very touching. That last line – hmm (or it is hum?), really resonates. Well done – very good writing.

  3. James A. Tweedie

    Mr. Eastman,

    The use of “me” and “I” transform this from an abstract metaphysical musing into a deeply intimate, personal, plaintive expression of sadness, loss, and grief. Good poetry is often metaphorically florid. Better poetry, such I find yours to be, is raw, straightforward, honest and vulnerable. This excellent and moving poem is one of the better poems I have read on this site in recent memory. There are two minor quibbles but I shall overlook them so as not to distract from the poem’s overwhelming success.


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