When Names Escaped Us

By Gordon Henry Jr. b. 1955 Gordon Henry
The boy painted himself white and ran into the darkness.

We let the words “he may be dead, bury him,”
bury him.

We took his clothes to the rummage sale
in the basement of the mission
We put his photographs and drawings
in a birdcage and covered it with a starquilt.

For four nights voices carried clear to the river.

After winter so many storms moved in
strangers came among us
They danced
They shoveled in the shadows of trees

Then, somehow we all felt
all of us were of this one boy.

Gordon  Henry, Jr., “When Names Escape Us” from The Failure of Certain Charms: And Other Disparate Signs of Life. Copyright © 2007 by Gordon  Henry, Jr..  Reprinted by permission of Salt Publishing.

Source: The Failure of Certain Charms: And Other Disparate Signs of Life (Salt Publishing, 2007)

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Poet Gordon Henry Jr. b. 1955

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Gordon  Henry Jr.


Gordon Henry Jr. is an Anishinabe and an enrolled member of the White Earth Chippewa Tribe of Minnesota. His father was in the U.S. Navy, and Henry grew up on military bases. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin, Parkside; an MA in English and creative writing from Michigan State University; and a PhD from the University of North Dakota. He is the author of the poetry chapbook Outside White Earth . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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