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The Dead in My Life

Stephen Morrissey

From Divisions, Coach House Press, Toronto, 1983:

to see the trees' branches
grey & archaic

against a sky
far whiter than the moon

an old woman's hair
tied in a bun

it is my grandmother's
hair   as she embraces me

she blows a strand up through yellow
& absent teeth   the hair
fallen over her forehead

o the moon is my grandmother's
bun tied in a million

knots   tied to her
ancient head with the stubby

fingers of time

her gold wedding ring

has become a part of her

hand   the flesh grown
around it so the finger

the flesh itself

is one with that
circle of gold

aureole of light
on the moon



how often I return to them
the dead in my life
who inhabit dreams

memories while rocking
my son to sleep   or a
dream that my Uncle Alex
was alive although we

thought (in the dream)
that he had been dead
these seven years

they are like flies
beating against an autumn

flies that bang
into my face & enter

the mouth to come out
as words   this language
of flies & the dead

this ever diminishing
circus parade of old
people I hang onto
as though without them
I too would cease to be


their benevolence
is there too

the kindness
at leaving shadows


those who have become
memories   to bury our

memories in their real

& most noble grave   the soil of
anonymity   we who
till the past & leave
cemetaries of memories
behind us until the mind

itself enters the earth
& holding handfuls of dirt
           sees whole decades

removed from our
fingers as

the earth falls
& we say
our final & most
complete goodbyes

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