Harryette Mullen
Photograph by Javier Kober on Unsplash

Before you went, you sipped smooth dark honey,

pleasure we nearly forget. With all of eternity

looming dead ahead, you started expiring

when you were still youthful. Adventurous, lively,

you capsized your kayak in rapid currents,

regarding how damage accelerates torment

when boring insects meet drought-stricken trees.

Ever shredding pristine sheets of reason,

bold protagonist escaped from our book bag.

We collect your ripped linen, torn trim of old rags.

Unwittingly slurring your implicit silence,

we go on missing that elusive confidence.

As you handled raw lightning, not bending to be careful,

we saw you straight and upstanding, buoyantly joyful.

Harryette Mullen’s books include Recyclopedia (Graywolf, 2006), winner of a PEN Beyond Margins Award, and Sleeping with the Dictionary (University of California, 2002), a finalist for a National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A collection of essays and interviews, The Cracks Between, published in 2012 by University of Alabama, won an Elizabeth Agee Prize. Graywolf published Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary in 2013. A critical edition of her poetry is forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press in 2022. She teaches courses in American poetry, African American literature, and creative writing at UCLA.