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Day of Grief

I was forcing a wasp to the top of a window
where there was some sky and there were tiger lilies
outside just to love him or maybe only
simply a kiss for he was hurrying home
to fight a broom and I was trying to open
a door with one hand while the other was swinging
tomatoes, and you could even smell the corn
for corn travels by wind and there was the first
hint of cold and dark though it was nothing
compared to what would come, and someone should mark
the day, I think it was August 20th, and
that should be the day of grief for grief
begins then and the corn man starts to shiver
and crows too and dogs who hate the wind
though grief would come later and it was a relief
to know I wasn’t alone, but be as it may,
since it was cold and dark I found myself singing
the brilliant love songs of my other religion.

—Gerald Stern

"Day of Grief" by Gerald Stern from In Beauty Bright.

W.W. Norton, 2012.

By permission of the author.

Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern

Gerald Stern (1925- ) was born in Pennsylvania and educated at the University of Pittsburgh. He published his seventeenth book of poems In Beauty Bright: Poems in 2012. Stern’s many awards and honors include the National Book Award, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize, and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, as well as the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. He has received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and was Poet Laureate of New Jersey from 2000–2002. Photo credit: Martin J. Desht

Learn more about Gerald Stern at The Poetry Foundation.