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Linda Aldrich

Day of 100,000 Dead
May 25, 2020

A slight wind, and the apple trees,

cherry trees, clustering red-seed 

maples drop their blossoms 

into soft circles of pink and white 

on the grass, each circle a place 

where beauty would bloom 

one more time—each petal a face 

still alive to us, whispering. 

How do we take up these petals?

How do we do this?

Locked down inside our houses, 

sanitized and vigilant, our stores 

of dried beans, our zoom calls

like trains of waving passengers

pressed against the windows,

passing us by, passing us by. 

Meanwhile, spring arrives again, 

and our small planet orbits and 

rotates in predictable patterns, 

pulls a dark trail of suffering 

into one more sunset, one more 

day’s tally of death.  Heavy 

and slow with disbelief, we mask

ourselves, keep a safe distance

as dreams run aground, the world 

reels, wrecks itself in chaos.  

What can we do for the fragile 

heads of the dying? 

How do we hold them in our laps 

while they fade and vanish? 

How do we pray? 

How do we carry them?

Antigone Buries Polynices

I am told it does not matter where the grains of earth fall on you.

            Unlike windblown dust 

            or tossed-up bits behind turning wheels

            of carriages

these grains carried in a square of cloth 

            woven by our distraught 


      are deliberate grains and wholly


shared with you from childhood when we would hide inside 

            the farthest grove of trees 

            and let our freakish fates  grow 

wise and clear

            as only otherkindly creatures can.  

                                             Oh brother 

where they hoped to find limping aberrations 

                 they found instead pretty children playing ponies in the dirt


and so I let sift through my fingers this sand to your face      your nose, 

                  your suppurating mouth and pruning eyeswhere flies 

whisper and feast within a cloud of stink such grit 

              as can be forged between those so displaced

 that we would find at last              at last                    a path 

into the trees of welcomed souls                                and so seal 

with spit such precious water from my mouth to yours 

as contains our fatherbrother’s tears and most merciful hopes. 

                                              And now they come. 

To My Rumored Other Sister (whispered sister)

 I count back the years to your red braids  

where it ended

             Watch closely now  

A sister lost is a swallowed self  

             are you watching me now?

I’m a sad and 

guarded sister

             …master magician

the more I crawled along my olive branch


the more angry you were   Oldest 

of the three

             who's setting you free

was I not your lauded sister  

undaunted sister

flying us 

from the foaming river


             From the lies

                         you've been told

the unhinged house

             When they're breaking your back?

A loved sister

             Bring your last straw to me


I packed my bags and sent you foreign postcards

             (straw to gold)

left you to handle it alone 

             gonna need you later… 

             Don't look down

you won’t forgive


                          …not around

(haunted sister)                      Color it lonely… 

Home early from school          I stood rooted

heard you secret-sing / become

Barbra Streisand in the basement 


              …the room I sleep in

              Walk in…weep in

              Hide in

             that nobody sees


you were so




but truth be told 

the most gifted


     lyrics from “Watch Closely Now,” Kris Kristofferson, A Star is Born, 1976

     “My Coloring Book,” The Second Barbra Streisand Album, 1963

Linda Aldrich currently serves as Portland, Maine’s sixth Poet Laureate and has published two collections of poetry, Foothold (2008) and March and Mad Women (2012). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, among them Indiana Review, Cimarron Review, Elixir, The Denver Quarterly, Ellipsis, The Florida Review, The Ilanot Review, Poet Lore, Third Coast, Puerto del Sol, Snake Nation Review, Words and Images, Solstice Literary Magazine, The Café Review, and most recently, Balancing Act II: An Anthology of 50 Maine Women. Linda was awarded a Hewnoaks writing residency in 2017, and her poem “Woman-without-Arms” won the Emily Dickinson Award from Universities West Press. A graduate of Vermont College’s MFA program, she co-hosts with Marcia F. Brown the monthly reading series “Local Buzz” in Cape Elizabeth, now in its ninth year, and hosts the “Leaf of Voices” reading series at the Portland Public Library. For more information about the poetry of Linda Aldrich, visit her website at

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