Tender and Eerie: 'Death Comes to Me Again, A Girl' by American Poet Dorianne Laux

Tender and Eerie: 'Death Comes to Me Again, A Girl' by American Poet Dorianne Laux

Monday, 2 October, 2023

The best ghost stories combine a preternatural thrill with a palpable sense of melancholy — close, breathless, and mournful, filled with longing and loneliness.

This arresting poem also does the surprising: Dorianne Laux adds a touch of lightness that makes the sorrow both more manageable and more poignant.


Death Comes to Me Again, a Girl — Dorianne Laux

  • Death comes to me again, a girl
  • in a cotton slip, barefoot, giggling.
  • It’s not so terrible she tells me,
  • not like you think, all darkness
  • and silence. There are windchimes
  • and the smell of lemons, some days
  • it rains, but more often the air is dry
  • and sweet. I sit beneath the staircase
  • built from hair and bone and listen
  • to the voices of the living. I like it,
  • she says, shaking the dust from her hair,
  • especially when they fight, and when they sing.

About Dorianne Laux

Born January 10, 1952, in Augusta, Maine, American poet Dorianne Laux worked as a maid, gas station manager, sanatorium cook, and donut holer before earning a BA in English from Mills College in 1988. She was first inspired to write after hearing a poem by Pablo Neruda; this is a good Neruda poem.

Since then, she’s written 10 books and is currently a professor at North Carolina State University’s creative writing program. Her most recent collection is Only as the Day Is Long: New and Selected Poems; it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2019.

In an interview, she said, ‘Craft is important, a skill to be learned, but it’s not the beginning and end of the story. I want the muddled middle to be filled with the gristle of the living.’ Read more poems by Dorianne Laux at PoetryFoundation.org.

Top image courtesy of Cody Board/Unsplash.

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