In Honor of Linda Gregg: One Poem (For Now)

The last few times we’ve lost a poet, I’ve had the privilege of knowing them, or at least loving their work. Today, with the loss of Linda Gregg, I walked into the unfamiliar place of not knowing a poet by name, or not being able to associate them with at least one poem.

Today, I lingered in the corner while my fellow writers mourned the loss of a friend, of family, of inspiration. Repeatedly, I read how the world would be a darker place, a colder one, one less forgiving, one less beautiful, without her.

This evening, I spent a little time browsing for her work, starting simply enough with any poems available through Linda Gregg’s Poets.org profile.

All I have the energy to say now is, to the poets near me, my grief has risen up with yours.

Linda Gregg’s poetry is beautiful, an almost insufferable lyric that intertwines imagery and the declarative, the simple and the subtle, what we take advantage of and what is beautiful, into tight, breathless poems that accelerate from phrase 1 and through the end. After only a few poems, this is what I can say of her: high praise.

I’ll be ordering a few of her books tonight—recommendations of favorites are endlessly welcome—and I’ll inevitably be back with more poems, some of my own, and probably a literary essay, based on how charged I currently feel.

But for now, good night and solidarity, my fellow writers. If you knew her, I imagine your life was better. If, like me, you didn’t, you can still share in her words.

Here is my favorite poem so far. It’s killing me, and I hope it never leaves me.

THE CALVES NOT CHOSEN

The mind goes caw, caw, caw, caw,   
dark and fast. The orphan heart   
cries out, “Save me. Purchase me   
as the sun makes the fruit ripe.
I am one with them and cannot feed   
on winter dawns.” The black birds   
are wrangling in the fields
and have no kindness, all sinew
and stick bones. Both male and female.   
Their eyes are careless of cold and rain,   
of both day and night. They love nothing   
and are murderous with each other.   
All things of the world are bowing   
or being taken away. Only a few calves   
will be chosen, the rest sold for meat.   
The sound of the wind grows bigger   
than the tree it’s in, lessens only   
to increase. Haw, haw the crows call,   
awake or asleep, in white, in black.

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