Monday Poem: “Burial” by Rhian Gallagher

I had a difficult time choosing the poem for today. There were so many I wanted to select, but ultimately this one won out for its simplicity and its evocative imagery.

Burial by Rhian Gallagher

The shovels stood in a sticky underbelly of earth
as we stepped from the sidelines for him,
peeling our jackets, the boys loosening their ties.
Soon there was clay on our church-going gear
and his voice coming out of our childhood
coaching us to put our backs into it.
Flowers and fine words had never touched the man
like work, grunts behind a shovel’s bite,
the clean sound of clods as we heaved them in. Digging,
we bowed in memory of his stooped solid shape.
The dark damp weight of earth,
a provision, a very last word.

(courtesy of this site)

I love the way this poem is so grounded; there are few details given, but they give us a clear picture not only of the man to be buried but also of those burying him, their relationship and the burial itself. The rhythm is well done, too, in some ways is evocative of the rhythm of digging, neatly tied up at the end. Lovely enjambment, and an economical use of language. An enjoyable piece.

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  1. Wow. This was like being in the head of one of the people actually doing it, seeing and hearing and remembering. Neat poem 🙂

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