Poetry: What Rituals Did You Perform? by Kathryn Hunt

Kathryn Hunt’s elegy pursues the ultimately elusive goal: meaning and sense before the lip of the grave. Somehow, “What Rituals Did You Perform?” answers itself, as only poetry does, in the asking.


What Rituals Did You Perform?

When you were gone, I draped black bunting
over doors, rent my clothes, walked bare
breasted down the empty asphalt streets.
Cut off all my hair, turned back the clocks
to set their silly faces running toward

the time before. Ripped out
the telephone. Wore a veil to show
the world, turned the mirrors
to face the wall. And kept a thousand
candles burning.

You’d shown me how, you’d done it
for your own dead. Your mother gone
while you were in the cradle. Your brother
lost at sea. Your father and that lonesome
business with the gun.

When you were gone, I prayed. I called
down blessings on your life. I held a wake,
invited everyone, served poppy cake.
I played your favorite songs. And still
I woke and found you gone.

Kathryn Hunt

Kathryn Hunt makes her home on the coast of the Salish Sea. Her poems have appeared in The Sun, Rattle, Radar, Orion, the Missouri Review, the Carolina Quarterly, Writer’s Almanac, and Narrative. Her first collection of poems, Long Way Through Ruin, was published by Blue Begonia Press. She has translated the work of Catalan poet Marie-Mercè Marçal and is the recipient of residencies and awards from Ucross, Artists Trust, and Joya AIR (Spain). She’s currently at work on a memoir, Why I Grieve I Do Not Know. She’s worked as a waitress, shipscaler, short-order cook, bookseller, printer, food bank coordinator, filmmaker, and freelance writer. kathrynhunt.net

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