Gravedigger, A Letter To Bai Juyi, Hilltop, Tossing


He digs,
As he has
Every day but the holy day
For twenty-three years.

He does not ask
About their finished lives.
He does not want to know
Of what is gone
Or he might begin to care,
And that is what he is paid
Not to do.

He takes comfort
In the turning of the soil
In the ripple of his muscles
In the covering of the coffin.

He smiles
At the irony
Of his existence—
He lives
For the dead.

A Letter to Bai Juyi

The thin and fragile branches
Of the delicate tree
Sway gently in the wind.

The blossoms try to hold on,
Just like people
Trying to hold on to life.

You missed spring,
And I had it,
But I spent it
Dreading the time
When it would be gone.


He sits on the hill
The pollen floats by
Lands on his hair
Making him smile.

His fingers play
At the grass below
His thin hands.

He looks out
Into the night,
The loud noises
Of the city
Flashing underneath him.

It is quiet on his hilltop,
And he wonders
If it will always be there
And if anyone else
Will find his spot
That he uses to get away from the world.


She turns over in her bed
Hot then cold
Cold then hot
Tosses the blankets off
Pulls them on
Pushes them away again.

She sits up,
The stillness of the air suffocating her
She longs for a cool breeze to blow through.

She sticks her head out the window
Pours the glass of water over her head
Shakes the droplets onto the concrete below.

She climbs back into the bed
Stares at the white ceiling
Closes her eyes.

Before she can begin
To dream
The day is there
Engulfing her in the first
Morning light.

Gabriela Mernin, Age 12, Grade 7, Hunter College High School, Gold Key

One Comment

  1. Corinne Diana

    This is a remarkable poem, Gaby Mernin. You have the ability to inhabit someone else’s mind and skin, someone else whose life and personna are presumably very different from your own, and to reveal that someone to the reader. I loved it.

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