• Best of the Net 2023 Nominations

    Autumn Sky Poetry DAILY is delighted to announce the following poems have been nominated for inclusion in 2024’s Best of the Net anthology: Flight Path by Laura RodleyThe Sonnet by Ed HackRailway Station, Bendery, Moldova by Tovli SimiryanBaptism by Greg WatsonMaking Up by Larina WarnockAll the best stories are true by Julia Klatt Singer —read more—

All the Love We Lay Claim To by Greg Watson

All the Love We Lay Claim To

My great-grandfather Juho leans forward slightly
in his chair, as though about to speak

or to reach out his hand one last time
to his beloved, at rest in the casket beside him,

its doorway already covered in handfuls of flowers
and soil, heavy and damp, the solemn faces

of men in the background looking on, weary,
their funeral suits and ties virtually interchangeable.

But the mourner up front wears his work shirt
for this, the hardest labor he has endured

in a lifetime of work, his hands having carved
long into the night a seemingly endless array of roses

and filigree into the wood, as he had once carved
into the marriage bed, and the children’s cribs,

hands that look suddenly exposed and empty,
lingering like uncertain birds too long into winter.

Could he have imagined this moment when he arrived
from that other world, with neither currency

nor language, to stake his claim and break this
ground open like a sacred book of secrets?

He must have known, without ever having to say,
that the earth we till must be fed in return,

and all the love we lay claim to must be met equally
with grief, solid as the ground on which we stand.

This, it seems, is the only bargain we are offered,
our baffled silence continually interpreted as assent.

by Greg Watson

Editor’s Note: The perfectly placed simile in the center of this poem anchors the speaker’s memory of grief and loss.


4 responses to “All the Love We Lay Claim To by Greg Watson”

  1. addacat Avatar

    Wonderful ending.

  2. seeker2022 Avatar

    Beautiful details that pull the reader into the scene. The couplets work very well as pauses. Grief is poignantly described as “the hardest labor”; “solid as the ground on which we stand” and “baffled silence”. I particularly loved the line containing “a sacred book of secrets”. That describes life wondrously.

  3. Bob Bradshaw Avatar
    Bob Bradshaw

    Gorgeous narrative poetry with memorable imagery. Kudos!

  4. Betsy Andrea Mars Avatar

    “lingering like uncertain birds too long into winter” – this and so many of the lines and the overall depiction of the relationship between love and grief are so remarkable, so special in this poem.

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