The Day She Died (Christine Coates)

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The day she died

Tonight, as I walk, midnight swallows me

on a road only I can see.

Night blades 

its way to my tongue –

a dance that tastes like old tin.

Midnight swallows me tonight –

the last of the road spits me into morning.

The day ends even as I say it,

the day that doesn’t know.

The slice of light that tears the sky,

this morning should be banished,

be hounded to a black hole.

The world should know yesterday


by Christine Coates, HOMEGROWN, 2014 by Modjaji Books, Cape Town;
Art by Corrie Haffly.

I’m beginning to realize that while there is a lot of poetry about love, and wonder, and joy, there is also a lot of poetry about grief and suffering: the ineffable truths. “Midnight swallows me” says something of loss that I feel, even if I don’t understand.

Christine Coates is a South African artist and poet, and when I told her about this series, she was kind enough to send me some of her favorite poems (including The Peace of Wild Things) as well as a number of her own published works. I chose this one for two reasons: first, because grief needs a voice. And second, because Christine is my mom’s cousin, and the women she has loved and lost are in some way, my own people, too. (Thanks, Christine. <3 to you.)

(Update: Christine had sent me a collection of poems, but I hadn’t told her which one I’d chosen, or when it might run… I chose this one, and I chose today, but I had no idea that the poem was about her mom, and that today was the anniversary of her death. What breath-taking, beautiful, poignant timing.)

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Photo credit: Christa Norman, Mel Draper Photography, and Jonathan Summer