Today’s poem is a little bit of an odd one. I think it might be on the Sample Poems page that is lurking on this blog somewhere, but no matter, I may as well post it here as well. It’s from Crossroads Poetry, and it’s called ‘My Lady Reaper’.
I first wrote this poem in about 2012, or rather, a poem that had a few things in common with this one. A handful of the lines were the same, but I didn’t like the poem as a whole, so I decided to rewrite it, and this is what emerged.
I like this poem because it both is and isn’t personal. It is, because it explores emotions I was feeling at the time, namely the inability to express exactly what I was feeling, but being angry about it. But it also isn’t, because I abstracted it and turned it into a weirder, more surreal poem, thereby creating distance between the words and the feelings that inspired them.
And while it’s not exactly a cheerful poem, that distance makes it more enjoyable to read, I think. It’s mournful and bitter, but it isn’t depressing the way poems more closely tied to my personal problems and struggles are. Hopefully.
That said, this lack of specific personal context makes it a hard poem to talk about. I’ll draw your attention to the fact that Death in this poem is female. In the same collection, I’ve got a poem called The Gendering of Death, which explores the idea a little more — the idea that some societies have male figures for death (Dis Pater, Hades) and others take a different approach (Hel, the Valkyries). I just thought that was intriguing.
My Lady Reaper is the third of three consecutive poems in Crossroads Poetry that deal with death, starting with The Gendering of Death. The one in the middle is called Murder For Her Lover, in which Death’s gender is unspecified but still personified. I guess that was something that preoccupied me at the time, and it fits with the otherworldly theme of the collection, and the idea of demon deals and whatnot.
Anyway, that’s enough blathering. Here’s My Lady Reaper.
— — —
My Lady Reaper
Hatred is sweeping the leaves away
from the flowerbeds we plant together,
Death and I.
She gathers for us a poison’s kiss
in a bouquet of rotting petals
and leaves them here.
I walk with my lady reaper
to visit Love
whose letters char and turn black
and drop as ashes
to join the cast-down bunch
of flowered kissing stems.
Death has waited a long time
to see you fall,
but I have waited longer.
I tell you this in letters
that I seal and place
among the stems of Hatred’s flowers.
You will never read them,
so Death and I continue
while Hatred’s broom is
sweeping, sweeping, sweeping,
and Love is ashes.
— — —
Thanks to everyone who has left comments on the Poem-mas posts so far! I really appreciate all your feedback, and if there are any particular types of poems you’d like me to share, I’m happy to hear your requests. If you’ve read one or more of my collections and found a poem in there that you’d like me to talk about because you’re interested in the context, feel free to suggest it in the comments.