Schooled in the Lesser Griefs


Not the great ones

weighty as tomes

to be learned by heart

two lines a day for life


but deaths like the crinkle

of hay or angel hair

pasta, like the sigh of pilings

subsiding into mud,

or the tearing of soggy paper:


childhood acquaintances stumbling

into early deaths,



expiring like dialects

never written down,


the extinction of tiny species

known only to their predators

and prey and to themselves.


For these, teacher,

sting my knuckles

and bend me to the slate

to scrawl a hundred times

what must be felt.


Instruct me to lie thin

over the skin of the living,


to be a smudge

narrowing to a sliver,

then a vanishing