By Judy Loest b. 1947 Judy Loest
Leaves drift from the cemetery oaks onto late grass,   
Sun-singed, smelling like straw, the insides of old barns.   
The stone angel's prayer is uninterrupted by the sleeping   
Vagrant at her feet, the lone squirrel, furtive amid the litter.   

Someone once said my great-grandmother, on the day she died,   
rose from her bed where she had lain, paralyzed and mute   
For two years following a stroke, and dressed herself—the good   
Sunday dress of black crepe, cotton stockings, sensible, lace-up shoes.   

I imagine her coiling her long white braid in the silent house,   
Lying back down on top of the quilt and folding her hands,   
Satisfied.   I imagine her born-again daughters, brought up   
In that tent-revival religion, called in from kitchens and fields   
To stand dismayed by her bed like the sisters of Lazarus,   
Waiting for her to breathe, to rise again and tell them what to do.   

Here, no cross escapes the erosion of age, no voice breaks   
The silence; the only certainty in the crow's flight   
Or the sun's measured descent is the coming of winter.   
Even the angel's outstretched arms offer only a formulated   
Grace, her blind blessings as indiscriminate as acorns,   
Falling on each of us, the departed and the leaving.

Poem copyright ©2007 by Judy Loest. Poem reprinted from "After Appalachia," Finishing Line Press, 2007, by permission of Judy Loest and the publisher.

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Poet Judy Loest b. 1947

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Judy Loest, a Knoxville, Tennessee resident, was born in Virginia in 1947. She earned an MA in English from the University of Tennessee in 1998 and is the author of the chapbook After Appalachia (2007). A regular blogger, her work has been featured in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column, on American Public Media’s On Being, and in the Poetry Society of America’s Poetry in Motion program on public transportation in the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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