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Deidra Greenleaf Allan

Walt Whitman Speaks Out on Behalf of Dead Poets Regarding Appropriate Memorials

Opened in 1957, the Walt Whitman Bridge spans the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey & is located near the city of Camden where Whitman lived.


We do not want to be a bridge, road

      or interstate rest stop,


to be remembered

      by impatient bottlenecks of cars


or roadside memorials of trash. 

      Who thought it an honor


to have rebar, cement & asphalt

      be the metaphor for our lives?


We are not made by man,

      We are made by chance,


our materials fugitive, unstable

      resisting permanence.


What hubris to pretend otherwise.

      Let our names instead be given


to clouds, or better, to the rain

      that falls from them, reviving


our roads’ verges & median strips,

washing humanity’s windshields clean.  





Night’s come early, settled in like a roosting bird

fluffed against the cold.

Outside my window, snow has replaced the known world

with a simpler version of itself

while inside, the fireplace sparks and glows,

reducing logs to chunks of red-hot cinder

so bright it hurts. I am alone,

listening to the fire spit and sizzle as it performs


its incendiary miracle, converting matter

to light. Why am I so far from what I seek?


Why is it so hard to still this yearning?

I’m not the only one. We all burn,


trying to return to our origin, even the stars,

far above this small house


tucked in the corner of this tidy neighborhood

on the outskirts of this snow-stilled town.


Their burning reaches me across the frozen

distances, long after they’ve gone.





It’s grey outside

and somewhere a lawn mower

is making its rounds


over the last stubborn

blades of grass.

Such a bland cottony grey.


Not ash or charcoal

but something in between—

the color of never quite being


what you’re supposed to be.

Unlike the sycamore in the yard

whose purpose is clear.


Come fall, it seals off the vessels

joining leaf to twig and frees itself

of its summer residue


to stand bare boned

and braced for winter.

I want to be as decisive as that


as guilt free in my leafing and cleaving.

But choices make things grey—

as grey as this muted sky


above the single-minded drone

of the lawn mower, doing exactly

what it’s meant to do.




Deidra Greenleaf Allan has been published in American Poetry Review, Poetry Miscellany, Puerto del Sol, West Branch, and Quartet Journal, among other print and online journals. In 2001, she was selected as Montgomery County (PA) Poet Laureate by Robert Hass. She has received a Leeway Emerging Artist Award and was a finalist for a Pew Fellowship in poetry. One of her poems was selected in 2012 by Musehouse for its Poem of Hope poster.


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