“O, Death” from Arc’s 2019 Shortlist

O, Death

Are you there,
in the long asphalt sigh of tires in the rain,
and under the bark of the old maples, eavesdropping,
smelling softly of pencil lead—

is it you who causes those small, metallic implosions
when the mail comes up the street?

You’re a mute bell, you lower,
and then there’s no air.

And you’re the faint, falling bodies
of the midges, their plumed antennae,
their charcoal, undulant, funnelling swarms
over the shrubs at dusk.

You make such awkward entrances sometimes.

Or you leave the party and don’t even tell anyone.
I’ve done it before.

And I’ve rigged games so I couldn’t lose,
and found myself ugly and lonely.

You’re the gravel sediment, and a vast thirst,
and a lock. The constellation of holes in the rice
when it’s cooked. You want to hold us,
but you press too close.

You in rehearsal, or you on a rampage.
When water streams in contradicting currents to the grate,
its houndstooth ridges are your fleeting eyes.

Or are you always there, a cover of umber glass.
And you shatter, and then there’s no air.

Lise Rochefort on Sadiqa de Meijer’s “O, Death”

Death usually gets a bad rap. But if, as someone once said, all lyrical poetry is about sex or death, Sadiqa de Meijer’s “O, Death” is a refreshing take on the latter. The poem’s narrator questions death, understands it, speaks to it soothingly. Crisp lines, simple imagery, and well-placed sound combine into a deft treatment of the subject, one that sustains our interest over many readings.

Sadiqa de Meijer is currently working on poems that delve into maternal and child separation. Her collection of lyric essays on her first language will be published with Palimpsest Press in 2020.

Skip to content