Grief Rows: The Best of 2012 by Jackie White

Death taps his black wand and something vanishes: winter

tongue of the dear, the dead; tongue of death

that said “sorrow” for fear that in the future all the beauties

of the world would cry aloud: whom should I search for?

The answer? my mother. Bones undressing

a fraction of the self, corpus, a dark compendium, this

holding in sight what no rite can grow back.


Why aren’t you like red earth? Because in my mouth,

raw starch, dirt. Because in my mouth,

I hold nothingness like a black jewel,

as if the mind were an arrow shot from the eye

into a body face up on the sheet, scrubbed clean

while ghosts in the machine, in the martini, turn

up regularly and lead me astray like a drug.


So much for death today and long ago:

it comes in the form of a slight slit

embodied—and life comes burning, blinking

in the rain, and like the rain’s shiver and freeze,

you weren’t. Weren’t. Now you’re a little air

under the soil, a little trickle of knowledge,

a rage whose action is no stronger than a flower.


I seek you in the dark water. And then,

on the table, an envelope with my name on it

and there is barely enough time to read it.

Where the solid world softens the mutinous dust,

the world inverts: what would be an arrow,


a dove; plow and farmer, only a curtain,

and from apex to primordia, you spiral.


My heart: a stranger, wreckage, an estrangement,

and innumerable birds fly against it.

Let’s hear you refute this any way you can.
Jackie K. White earned her PhD in Creative Writing (poetry) from UIC with concentrations in Latino/Latin American and Women’s Studies. A former editor with RHINO, she is now a professor at Lewis University where she serves as a faculty advisor for Jet Fuel Review. Her poems and translations have appeared in ACM, Bayou, Fifth Wednesday, Folio, Quarter after Eight, Spoon River, Third Coast, and online at, seven corners, shadowbox, and She has published three chapbooks: Bestiary Charming, 2006 Anabiosis Press award; Petal Tearing & Variations, Finishing Line (2008); and Come Clearing, Dancing Girl Press in 2012.