How Do We Fit Death To Language

Hannah Waller asks us to ponder the absolute termination of death. In her interview with the Greenleaf Review Radio Show on WQFS, we discover that at times we believe “one is at peace” … as though the human body still lives a few feet deep – as implied by our cultural phrases. To her poem, however, those resting beneath the Earth are no longer existent; simply, they are nothing. Certainly a debatable notion among many. We featured her poem in the 2011 Greenleaf Review. A recording of her interview is in the audio box attached to the side panel.


Hannah Waller

We pretended that the candles could not burn, could not light
a single piece of air. We did not want to breathe, we wanted nothing
more than flames to eat what oxygen was left us when –

deprived ourselves of sweet lungless relief, we had to,
we didn’t deserve to –

I helped you hang black sheets over the windows in your room,
left you lying like a – on the bed.
You sank into the comforter, your eyes sank in their hollows.

The mailman did not know, he came back every postal day,
nobody told him what was missing.
I wanted to tell him to stay away, he could become infected.

I told the animals if I died I’d only disappoint––
the marrow in my bones could not be sucked.
Nothing within their shells but brittle malted milk.

You and I stopped eating our food hot,
stopped warming our insides like––had.
We stopped drinking water at night,
let our mouths dry ‘till we could not breathe
between our lips without choking.

Nostrils dripped instead of eyes, we blew our noses
‘till they stung with peels of dead skin, our old wallpaper.
Lips cracked and we did nothing to prevent it.

I watched you walk up proper to the hole;
your body walked but you were somewhere else.
Rehearsal, habit, what you were told to do.

And when you placed the violets atop the––
I realized,
we were burying them alive.


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