This week’s Deep Water poem is the final poem in the final book of beloved poet Lee Sharkey, who passed away last year. Written by a woman on the cusp of the beyond, “Grief” astounds me over and over with its vulnerability, wisdom, and grace. This poem is at once devastating and transcendent.

Join us on Thursday to celebrate the launch of Lee’s final book, “I Will Not Name It Except to Say,” in an online event hosted by the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance and Kelly’s Books To Go, and featuring readings by Lee’s friends and colleagues. For more information, visit  

Sharkey was a poet, teacher and editor, as well as one of the co-founders of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. She was the author of “Walking Backwards” (Tupelo, 2016), “Calendars of Fire” (Tupelo, 2013) and five earlier books of poems, as well as a number of chapbooks. Her poetry has received many awards, including the 2017 Ballymaloe International Poetry Prize and the 2018 Maine Literary Award in Poetry. She served for 15 years as co-editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal.



By Lee Sharkey


A cachectic woman shuffles into the infusion center on the arm of her son

A demented man floats through the memory center in a cone of silence

If every day I worship at the altar of my grief, who is it I am true to

Father, mother, now another

I study the woman’s bones and dark eye sockets and realize she’s a mirror

I study my love’s expression, looking to prise out what’s inside

A fingertip touches my throat

We are grass in a windstorm

If Someone touches my throat

If Something breaks and smiles, offers the gift of tongues

If Someone appears and averts the sacrifice

If Someone dwells over the sick man’s bed and slides into his body

If Someone inscribes the commandments with a fingertip of fire

Father, mother, and now another, grief is my sister and my brother

If a breeze stirs the sedge grass by the marsh

If a face arrives from the whirlwind calling itself indwelling

Not through gloom, nor through sloth, nor through levity or idle chatter

If the Shekhinah arrives and averts the sacrifice

If a wind with a face that speaks says build my dwelling here

Then I will remember joy

Then I will enter the sick man’s body

I am a citizen of this republic


Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Grief” appears in “I Will Not Name It Except to Say” (Tupelo Press, 2021).

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