Case Study: Grief

Michelle Peñaloza

The body like a fit, a fever—
a brass band plays “Just A Closer Walk With Thee,”

eight pairs of arms raise a casket above
the heads of all who loved him and trumpets blare

as men and women sway their parasols,
swaggering a second line, vibrating with rapture

through humid streets—golden-toned, raw
with love. Beneath black mantillas, a pew

of women wails as one exhalation
fluttering against cathedral stone and stained glass.

Following fever, we bray with daily commemoration:
haranas sung in parking lots beneath floodlights;

the empty bed, empty seat at the table, made full
by the imagination and drone of one widow’s intonations;

a tattered Orbison record—I’m going back some day,
come what may to Blue Bayou—the soundtrack of a household

spun daily at the hours of 6am, noon, and midnight.
Follow commemoration all the way back

to the fever of one couple—new to each other, new
to the music sung on this side of the world—dancing

across the plush carpet of a beige apartment, singing inside
the grace of four-walls, to a music made louder by death. 




Michelle Peñaloza grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and holds an M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. Her poetry has appeared in Great River Review, The Weekly Rumpus, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of fellowships and scholarships from Kundiman, Vermont Studio Center, BreadLoaf, and the Richard Hugo House. She currently lives in Seattle.


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