A Reading List of Poems about Grief

The Poetry Coalition, an alliance of more than 25 independent poetry organizations across the United States, is exploring the theme “and so much lost      you’d think / beauty had left a lesson: Poetry & Grief” in a series of virtual and in-person programs in March, April, and May 2023.

As part of this initiative, CLMP asked our member literary magazines to recommend poems about grief—including grief for departed friends and family, for lost love, for future heartache, and more.

Sweet Potato Pie” by DeMisty D.  Bellinger
West Trestle Review

My last phone call to you,
I talked and you could not

If you could speak, I would have asked,
how’d you get the potatoes so smooth


Cyborg Attending Mermaid Festival without Inserting a Breathing Language” by Zaynab Bobi

yes, my bones raced
the ocean tides to a mermaid
festival. yes, i activated
the swimming tools


Billy Graham Elegy” by Jaswinder Bolina
Electric Literature

Nobody much mentions the floor of the Sistine Chapel
that’s touched so many more than the docents or the ceiling
or the premonitions on the wall. Come papal loafer


Miss you. Would like to take a walk with you.” by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Do not care if you just arrive in your skeleton.
Would love to take a walk with you. Miss you.
Would love to make you shrimp saganaki.
Like you used to make me when you were alive.


Acapulco” by Andrea Cohen
The Hopkins Review

He was talking about the random
axe of God, his hand slamming
the table like a battle axe, and though
I was a nonbeliever, I believed


Stratagem” by Elizabeth J. Coleman
Baltimore Review

I hung his photograph on the wall
above his notepad, signet ring,

stethoscope, ten shaving brushes.
That was my stratagem for grief.


The Windsurfer” by Chelsea Dingman
Raleigh Review

My husband is made of cloth, the sea
staining his skin with salt
as it exhales. Pale, he’s used
to falling from the sky, wings


A Postmortem Guide” by Stephen Dunn
The Georgia Review

Do not praise me for my exceptional serenity.
Can’t you see I’ve turned away
from the large excitements,
and have accepted all the troubles?


Abdel Halim Performs a Private Concert for My Mother” by Hazem Fahmy
Boston Review

Once, in a stolen land that wanted
my name dead, I knew

nothing of drums and strings. Once


Chuseok 추석” by Joan Kwon Glass
West Trestle Review

Today my uncle and his wife will visit
my grandparents’ tomb the way they do every year.


Trans Day of Remembrance” by Golden

I put the dead back back
—searching my eye sockets
for tendons & tissue to stop the wet
tribute. 11.18.2018.


Disappearing Actby Emily Hockaday
Electric Literature

My father gathers the corners
of the silk handkerchief;
his hands smell of cloying wort


Boy, Stepping from the Shower, a Towel Around His Waist” by Don Hogle
Full Bleed

Thirty years after,
you called to apologize,
asked my email address.


Mississippi, Missing, Missy, Miss” by K. Iver
Boston Review

I drive from the graveside to my apartment,
59 miles from your body. Your villain has yet
to go public. She’s larger than the highway.


Phosphorescence” by Zhu Jian
Translated by Liang Yujing
Bellevue Literary Review

Passing by the burial ground,
I see some flickers of light.
A friend tells me
it’s the bones that flash.


The Immi­nent Decline of Every­thing We’ve Under­stood to Be What Gov­erns Our Priv­i­leged Dai­ly Lives” by Daniel Kha­lastchi
Paper Brigade

I don’t think you will leave me
for the neighbor because

I actually think you will leave
me for him. I think you will leave


After Another School Shooting, I Drive the Back Roads of New Hampshire” by Deborah Murphy
Bellevue Literary Review

Late June fields greening
under a mottled sky.
An oriole slashes orange
against a shingled Cape Cod.


To Lose” by Veronica Nation
Capsule Stories

The charge of daylight brings morning.
From the unmoving dust, I see time,
which has passed and settled and set


Other~Land” by Rashna Wadia

in america
i’m always
in declarations


My First Gun” by Afaa Michael Weaver
The Hopkins Review

Not even a week out of prison he sticking
the thing in my face, six-inch barrel, twenty-two
or thirty-eight, ages I just might not make.