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April 4, 2023

Synonyms for Grief

K.E. Ogden
Synonyms for Grief

Daddy used to cup his hands at my ear

so I could hear the river. Every time

the world stops, something is lost.

A field of dogs shouts at the deer

in the dark trees. Empty skynight.

We buried the pig in a pit and now

we’re standing around the fire

with cans of Bud. Pull off one ear

and then another. These are synonyms

for grief: door, dirt, potato salad,

whiskey, cigarettes, shovel, biscuits,

pine logs, fried chicken, cigarette smoke,

grits, porch. That big wild Oak tree.

That Pecan tree with its lightning-split trunk

still giving seed. This is a name

for sadness: a mechanical butterfly

caught in a jar, and if you press

this button, it will push again and again

against the glass. Open the door.

Beneath the door, beneath that space

in the door, no gravity. People speak

in thought balloons. Daddy said,

When I die just throw me in the ditch.

K.E. Ogden is winner of the Finishing Line Press New Women’s Voices Chapbook Prize for her collection of poems What the Body Already Knows. A poet, essayist, book artist and educator, Kirsten chairs the Creative Writing committee at Pasadena City College where she is faculty editor of Inscape Magazine and organizes the PCC Humanities Speaker Series. Her work has been published at, The Dew Drop, Brevity, Louisiana Literature, Streetlight Magazine and elsewhere. A practitioner of Narrative Therapy, she believes that writing and poetry have the power to heal people and to change the world. Visit her on the web at:

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