Three Poems For the Dead and Dying | The New Engagement

Three Poems For the Dead and Dying

By Zahra Gordon
For The Dead and Dying art
A Poem in Three Haiku


decrepit souls now

cry the ghetto but sing: god.

tattered hearts alone


we pity. though we

have no right to judge, we scorn

we forget justice


this house disgusts me

my neighbour takes crack and beats

her screams wake me up



Grand Dad


a renaissance man

quoting Shakespeare, The Mighty

Sparrow / mock scatting


veteran, mas in

my blood: picture King Ahab

the streets, ‘48


suffered one too many

disappointments not to hurt

Grand Mum, his children


tried to be too strong,

to run from missing father,

suicidal mother


a renaissance man

who kept on dancing, even

after breaking his leg





I hope there are poems waiting for me at my father’s grave.


I’ve never seen his tombstone so I don’t know what epitaph is engraved on it, what inspiration is etched into the font used to write his name, sunrise, sunset.


All I remember is a mound of dirt swallowing a closed casket; my aunt pushing white roses into my hand saying, Look, put some flowers for your father;


and that evening months later when Ms. St. Cyr took me back to the cemetery after pan practice, and we drove around aimlessly until it was too dark for us to find him, too late for me to leave another bouquet or a message

because this was no All Saints or All Souls night with the neighbours to keep you company  while you placed cheap, white tapers around your loved ones’ graves and sang hymns to praise the dead;


this was not long time when I was a child more concerned with making candle balls and scraping stiff wax from my fingers before bedtime than saying prayers for great-grandparents I knew only through stories;


this was not those afternoons on November 1st and 2nd when I anticipated with friends staying up late, being outside at midnight;


this was not November 3rd when I put those candle balls in my book-bag hoping mine was the largest;


this was definitely not my twenties when it had rum and rhythm section and the good Christians rested their floral arrangements early o’clock and hurried to light their candles before the limers invited souls to fete


because Mt. Lebanon Cemetery is a gated community; it doesn’t stay open all night for you to pay tribute, reminisce or dance.


Every grave has a mailing address, and I can’t remember where my father lives.


Zahra Gordon is a Caribbean-American poet and writer currently based in Trinidad & Tobago. Her work has been published in journals such as Amistad, Kalyani and phat'itude. In 2010, she won the Furious Flower Poetry Competition and in 2015 her work was longlisted for the Hollick Arvon Prize for Caribbean Writers. Gordon is an alumna of Howard University.

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