Things That Cannot Die by Paige Riehl

A spoon in a cup of tea.
The letters in yellow envelopes,
the way a hand pushed lines
into the soft paper.
Morning laughter.
A white shirt draped
over the chair.
An open window. The air.
The call of one blackbird.
The silence of the other.
November. Summer.
The sounds of the piano notes
as they rest in the treetops.
The road from here to there.
Grief, that floating, lost swan.

Things That Cannot Die

Here we have another one of those apparently simple poems, simple by virtue of its uncluttered language, yet containing much in its fifteen lines. After the title, the poet does not tell us how it is that some things cannot die, instead she gives us straightforward examples of ordinary objects so that we can imagine them for ourselves and perhaps even add our own.

She speaks of everyday items – a spoon, laughter, a white shirt, an open window, letters and the way a hand pushed lines / into the soft paper, which I love for the way it invites the unseen writer as well as the reader. She names the call of a blackbird as well as the silence of the other – again allowing our imaginations to hear that silence. Seasons, piano notes not just heard but as they rest in the treetops – can you not just hear them?

And finally, Grief, that floating, lost swan. Now there is an imagine I will carry with me, that embodied sensation of untethered lostness that can accompany grief. These are the ways she portrays the undying nature of our mortal lives. They are elusive, these named items; they will not last forever, and yet, I sense she is reminding us that there will always be such things to help us notice the precious brevity of life.

10 thoughts on “Things That Cannot Die by Paige Riehl

  1. Each line touches my senses in so many ways. A beautiful and haunting poem – I have the sense of a mist surrounding “…that floating, lost swan.” I love what you’ve had to say about the poem.
    Thank you Jan. Love, Lisa

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  2. Jan, a remarkable poem. And your reflection: “that embodied sensation of untethered lostness that can accompany grief.” For a while after my mother died I kept thinking “I don’t know where you are”. I think what I was also feeling, being motherless for the first time in 47 years, was that I didn’t know where I was.

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  3. A beautiful poem to grace this day, along with your thoughtful reflections. I love the line about the piano notes resting in the treetops, and shall think of that when I next sit down at the keyboard. Thank you, Jan. xoxo

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