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American Life in Poetry

Painful separations, through divorce, through death, through alienation, sometimes cause us to focus on the objects around us, often invested with sentiment.

The Wind Chimes

Two wind chimes,

one brass and prone to anger,

one with the throat of an angel,

swing from my porch eave,

sing with the storm.

Last year I lived five months

under that shrill choir,

boxing your house, crowding books

into crates, from some pages

your own voice crying.

Some days the chimes raged.

Some days they hung still.

They fretted when I dug up

the lily I gave you in April,

blooming, strangely, in fall.

Together, they scolded me

when I counted pennies you left

in each can, cup, and drawer,

when I rechecked the closets

for remnants of you.

The last day, the house empty,

resonant with space, the two chimes

had nothing to toll for.

I walked out, took them down,

carried our mute spirits home.


From Thorns, published by Juniper Press, 1995. Copyright 1995 by Shirley Buettner, and reprinted with permission of the author. This weekly column is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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