Grace Mattern’s “An American Elegy”

An American Elegy
Grace Mattern

We go back to not dying,
wherever we fall is the beginning —

an allée of elms planted to create
a lace of sunlight and shadow.

What separates branches from wind
in designing their dance? Nothing.

We carry our own seasons wondering
when we will have wept enough.

We crave the cheerfulness of a park,
the feathered voices of children.

We know we are not brave but ordinary.
We hold our breath and listen

for our common language,
the murmur under the hum.

Previously published in the anthology, COVID Spring: Granite State Pandemic Poems (Hobblebush Books, 2020).

Writing Prompt: Go outside and listen for the voices of non-human beings — trees, birds, wind, rocks, the sky, the earth itself. What do you hear when you listen to things you haven’t considered as having a voice or even being alive?

Grace Mattern’s poetry and prose have appeared widely, including in The Sun, Brevity Blog, Calyx, Yankee, Prairie Schooner and elsewhere. She received fellowships from the NH State Council on the Arts and Vermont Studio Center and has published two books of poetry. Her recent work explores the integration of image and text and she is an emerging visual artist with a focus on collages. Her lifelong work as an activist has addressed violence against women, anti-racism organizing and environmental justice. Her writing and art can be found at and on Twitter & Instagram @gracemattern.