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Your Old T-Shirt [R]


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Your Old T-Shirt


I don't understand

their rituals of the dead.

You know,

the things these people do

with our bodies

once we're done with them:

viewings, burials,

mausoleums, cremation.


I guess I just wasn't prepared

for your death,

for meeting your parents

who were so much like mine

that I could taste the vomit of panic

in my mouth

when your mother grabbed my arm

as I tried to leave.


I understood our connection

even though we rarely spoke of such things.


I wasn't ready to have a plastic baggie

filled with bone fragments

and ash the color of your skin

shoved into my coat pocket


outside the garden gate.


The Garden.

A place I understood was yours,

a place you never would have taken me,

just as I would never have taken you

to my private place.

And there were all those snarky

hipster volunteers sneaking up on me,

reminding me not to answer my cell phone whenever I looked at it

to check the time

and snapping at me

to get back on the path

whenever I stood for too long in one place

and I wondered

if they knew you well enough

to not bother you,

or if you had once told one of them

in response to their hyper-vigilant nitpicking,

“I'm a paying member of this garden.

Fuck off.”


And I thought I'd like to have you with me today

to tell them to fuck off

and to laugh about it with you later

over coffee,

at the looks of horror on their faces

at your boldness,

which wasn't really boldness at all…

more like a sort of anger.

The same anger I feel today,

a feeling I know isn't really anger at all,

but more like a desperate passion

for the truth

in the face of all the deceit

you and I have known.


The same feeling as when

your father shoved a bag of ash

and bone fragments

into my pocket this afternoon

and I pretended as though I understood

even though I have never really grasped

why it should be comforting

to think that the remains

of the body you used to wear

are now spread across the earth

in a place that you loved

when I know

that your spirit already lives there…


It sort of feels like we burned your old T-shirt

and left it there for you… for what?

In case you get cold and need it?

If that were so, why did we burn it?

What good does it do you

all in a million pieces like that?

But I guess that leaving your body

to rot there

in the middle of the garden

whole and intact

would have been unsanitary at best

and just as useful to you.


As we dumped plastic baggie

after plastic baggie

behind bushes and benches,

trees and even in the water,

everyone kept saying,

how much you would have liked it

and I kept thinking

that you would have found it

just as creepy as I did…

the thought of your discarded bone fragments

and skin colored ash

blowing around in the wind,

catching the clothes and hair

of unsuspecting tourists

as they wandered about

in the cold autumn air.


~Rachel J. Hommel


(there is also an audio version of this in the audio section)

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Larsen M. Callirhoe

hi rachel, i thought this poem was real classy and very tasteful. you have a smilie comparing things to the deceased and the metaphor of the title works well with the contents of the poem.


im going to listen to the audio version. much enjoyed.


soon i will have audio versions of my poems.




Edited by Larsen M. Callirhoe

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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Thank you, Victor. This was written in October of 2008, after which I didn't write anything until just over a year had passed, when my friend issued me the tanka challenge I have mentioned before in other posts that got me writing again. I think this poem is quite a bit different than most of the other things I have written, but I think it's good to see different sides of a poet. I've really enjoyed reading everyone's work here. It's been nice to get to know you all.



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Frank E Gibbard

Hello Rachel, I found this an involving read. A difficult subject, handled in such an insightful way. Our ways of proceeding at death ceremonials can be hard on the participants, the sharing out of ashes is a first I would not want. Darkly humourous in learning of this as you expressed, I am still thinking about it. I do not do analysis but like the writing style, whatever it is. Your poem is wonderfully candid and lucid and gets over its message; it communicates which we are about primarily.

Edited by Frank E Gibbard
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Larsen M. Callirhoe

wow frank you said what i couldnt say in your last line. i think i agree with you frank.

Larsen M. Callirhoe

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Contemplative, somber, eloquent -- I'm sure this elegy's a fit tribute, and your loved one would have liked it. I don't think I would have liked to participate in the ritual either. For me, a recitation of the poem would have been more meaningful and would certainly suffice. I loved the audio version. I listened and read along.



Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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Frank, Tony, thank you both so much for your thoughts. I often find writing to be very cathartic and it was especially so in this case.


I have experienced the death of more friends than most at my age, primarily due to the avocation I have chosen, but this suicide was one that was very close to home. It was the one that allowed me to finally get closure on the first suicide I had gone through ten years prior. It never ceases to amaze me the way a community reacts to such things. Perhaps I'll write about that... I've started a file of ideas now, thanks to Tony's promptings on the discussion thread about process. :)



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