Thursday, April 08, 2021

Poetry on Thursday: Poet of the Week

After I shared that favorite Sharon Olds poem last week, Kym asked me if I would like join her, Kat, and Bonny in featuring poetry on our blogs for this month, and of course I said yes! There's a loose schedule with themes for each week, and this week we're all focusing on the same poet, Elizabeth Alexander.

Though her name was not immediately familiar to me, I have surely heard her poetry before, most notably because she read her poem "Praise Song for the Day" at Barack Obama's first inauguration (I think I was so overcome by emotion that all I could remember about the ceremony was Aretha Franklin's hat). Still, I couldn't have told you any of her poems by name or really anything about her biography, so it was a real treat to get to know her a little and read some of her poems. Unfortunately neither of my library apps had any of her poetry collections available, so I was limited to what I could find online. The poem I am sharing today, however, stood out -- maybe because I wrote a poem with the same title back in my angst-y teenage poetry-writing days or maybe because of the change in season. But I certainly hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Now is the time of year when bees are wild
and eccentric. They fly fast and in cramped
loop-de-loops, dive-bomb clusters of conversants
in the bright, late-September out-of-doors.
I have found their dried husks in my clothes.

They are dervishes because they are dying,
one last sting, a warm place to squeeze
a drop of venom or of honey.
After the stroke we thought would be her last
my grandmother came back, reared back and slapped

a nurse across the face. Then she stood up,
walked outside, and lay down in the snow.
Two years later there is no other way
to say, we are waiting. She is silent, light
as an empty hive, and she is breathing.

From Body of Life, published by Tia Chucha Press. Copyright 1996 Elizabeth Alexander.


  1. Another powerful poem. I love this one. Thank you for sharing!

  2. That's such a beautiful poem, Sarah. Thanks so much for sharing it. :-)

  3. What an incredible way to imagine life... and death. I had not read this poem, thank you so much for sharing!

  4. I'm glad we picked Elizabeth Alexander as the only poem I knew of hers was her Inaugural poem. This one is powerful, and I love how she jumps from bees to her grandmother with great imagery. Thanks for sharing it, Sarah!

  5. Umm...I don't know quite how many more emotions a three-stanza poem could *possibly* evoke. This one really took my breath, Sarah!

  6. Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem!

  7. What a wonderful poem. Alexander's imagery is so vivid. Her book of essays, Power and Possibility is also wonderful.

  8. Loving all the poetry, and learning more about Elizabeth Alexander. Thank you!