A Poem by Leslie McGrath

Rest in Warning

In the dark before morning lay the living in their beds
and lay we the dead in ours. Each earth-lidded terminus
not a chamber of rest, but a listening ear to the past.

The dead are with you, difficult as this is to believe.
We know how quickly you turn from mourning
back to the distractions you stretch from hour to hour.

You buy green mangoes from the street vendor
and pink tulips from the corner bodega. Finally alone
in your apartment, the bolt slid against strangers,

you collapse in exhaustion. No news, you vow
no devices all the long weekend. The cat nuzzles
your tulips and pushes the vase off the kitchen table.

You can’t get her off the furniture. Here in the yard
at the edge of the Old Town, there’s no keeping
the living out. You are our news, constant and uninvited,

opening the iron gate to stroll among our rows.
You place pebbles atop granite markers, whisper our names
as though we can no longer speak. We speak

in the dark before morning when the vandals come
tagging hate and toppling headstones. They give us voice.
Each thud’s a certain warning that the past is never gone. 

As long as the beaver slaps her tail on the pond’s surface,
as long as the rabbit stomps his hind leg, listen.
This sound is the only sound we make.


Leslie McGrath’s third poetry collection, Feminists Are Passing from Our Lives, is forthcoming from The Word Works in spring 2018.

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.