Pete Mackey

The Grief

The grief unexpected comes long after the dying,
long after I did not recognize the breaking as my own
in the time around me, moving on, and there was

only later, far after the universe is disturbed, the sheet
swept back, and loosened the edges. The cotton is cool
when I slip under, but the sun never stays for a dream.

The dawn keeps insisting down the bony tangle,
crimping castings out of the leaves my feet rustle,
throwing patches of trunks into crypts of themselves.

In a copse, with evergreen scent and needle gold,
the pine cones nested against the hunched roots,
the seedlings stretching for a lost arrow of sun;

and scratchings of limb on limb too full of ache
to become words, a bending in the breeze, for space
to move rubbed themselves raw against the near surface.

He is with me, with gods that do not know how,
with the rent ribs and a heart in me beating
fast and fixed and wanting for a way out.



Pete Mackey’s “The Grief” is inspired by the loss of their infant son, Leo, that he and his wife experienced in 2009. His poem “The Hawk” was named by Billy Collins as one of the top 100 poems in an international competition many moons ago, and his work has been published in such places as Connotation Press and Innisfree Poetry Journal. Shara McCallum and Harold Schweizer are his poetry mentors, and while earning his doctorate in the ‘90s he studied under James Dickey. His communications consulting business, Mackey Strategies, serves colleges, universities, and nonprofit foundations. He is a fan of dark chocolate, but then again who isn’t? He and his wife love treating their kids to a night out for homemade ice cream at the great local places serving it near their home in Amherst, MA.


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