Poem Sampler

Poems for Funerals

Poetry of grief, commemoration, and consolation.

From universal elegies to poems that address the particular anguishes of losing a parent, child, friend, or spouse, these poets try to make meaning out of inexpressible grief.

  

I. GENERAL POEMS FOR SERVICES AND MEMORIALS

Mourning and Memory

Requiescat” by Matthew Arnold

Her life was turning, turning,
       In mazes of heat and sound.
But for peace her soul was yearning,
       And now peace laps her round.

Epitaph for a Romantic Woman” by Louise Bogan

She has attained the permanence
She dreamed of, where old stones lie sunning.

 “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion” by Dylan Thomas

            Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; 
Though lovers be lost love shall not;  

Little Elegy” by Elinor Wylie

Withouten you
No rose can grow;

 

Coping with Loss

One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop

            Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Separation” by W.S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me 
Like thread through a needle.

Although the wind ...” by Izumi Shikibu

            the moonlight also leaks
between the roof planks

The Man Moves Earth” by Cathy Song

 In proportion to what is taken
what is given multiplies—

 

Voices from Beyond

Remember” by Christina Rossetti

Remember me when no more day by day
         You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
         Only remember me; you understand

I Dwell in Possibility – (466)” by Emily Dickinson

The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

Sonnet LXXI: No Longer Mourn for me when I am Dead” by William Shakespeare

            Do not so much as my poor name rehearse,
But let your love even with my life decay,

Good-Bye” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good-bye, proud world! I’m going home.

 

II. POEMS FOR SPECIFIC RELATIONSHIPS

Early and Tragic Death

You Were You Are Elegy” by Mary Jo Bang

            The sitting. The thinking
Of you where you are a blank
To be filled
In by missing. I loved you.

Wokiksuye” by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

            The hair falls
the spirit goes,
the will is
connected no more.

If It Should Ever Come” by Edward Dorn

            You didn’t know you were at the end
thought it was your bright pear
the earth, yes

Small Elegy” by Reginald Gibbons

Someone has left us now
before we have even touched hands.

Young Man” by John Haines

            I seemed always standing
before a door
to which I had no key,

Three Years She Grew” by William Wordsworth

And hers shall be the breathing balm,
And hers the silence and the calm
Of mute insensate things.

 

Passing of a Parent

Kaddish” by Allen Ginsberg

   blessed daughter come to America, I long to hear your voice again, remembering
your mother’s music, in the Song of the Natural Front—

   O glorious muse that bore me from the womb, gave suck first mystic life & taught
me talk and music, from whose pained head I first took Vision—

 

Your Clothes” by Judith Kroll

            they will always be your clothes without you,
as we will always be your daughters without  you.

 

Little Father” by Li-Young Lee

I buried my father in my heart.
Now he grows in me, my strange son,  

 

The Truth the Dead Know” by Anne Sexton

Gone, I say and walk from church, 
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,

Feel Me” by May Swenson

We cannot feel our father now. His power courses through us, 
yes, but he—the chest and cheek, the foot and palm, 
the mouth of oracle—is calm. And we still seek 
his meaning.

 

Losing a Friend

How It Is” by Maxine W. Kumin

I think of the last day of your life,
old friend, how I would unwind it,

To W.P.” by George Santayana

But yet I treasure in my memory
Your gift of charity, your mellow ease,
And the dear honour of your amity;

Consolation” by Robert Louis Stevenson

He is not dead, this friend — not dead,
But in the path we mortals tread
Got some few, trifling steps ahead

Elegy on Toy Piano” by Dean Young

            Necessary it is to live to love, 
to charge into the burning tower 
then charge back out 
and necessary it is to die.

 

Saying Goodbye to Spouses and Lovers

from “Beautiful Boyfriend” by Marilyn Chin

            Down the Irrawaddy River       you lay yourself   to sleep
No sun no moon          no coming no going

At Night the States” by Alice Notley

Oh being alone I call out my
          name
and once you did and do still in
          a way

The Widow’s Lament in Springtime” by William Carlos Williams

I feel that I would like
to go there
and fall into those flowers

Originally Published: June 7, 2013

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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