Grief Poems and Essays

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the skin gig

(by Tiffany Sankofa)


you left it here;

your skin gig,

the one that carried you

through your life,

my life with you.


the skin that received me

when we hugged

the skin that delivered

your palm to mine

the skin

I comforted you through

with strokes and care


the skin

that eventually



you left it behind

because it was

the only way

to finalize your divorce

with illness.


I understand;

I’m grateful

you are free.


they say that energy

never dies

and so I talk with you


sometimes, I’m sure you hear,

and I seem to

hear you back;

other times I am sure

you do not.

Still more times

I think I’m just crazy,


making wishes

on your stardust,

but it’s comforting,

so I don’t care.


I’m grateful

to connect

even if it turns out

I was just connecting

with the parts of you

that I made mine.


But all of that gratitude

all of that relief

all of that joy for you –

being done with all of


doesn’t take the place

of your skin


I feel I should

end this with a period

because skin ends,

returns to the Mother

recycled to nourish

what’s still here


but that means,

your skin is still here


transformed also

and so I will

just …

Grief Seed

(by Tiffany Sankofa)

Hard seed

ground deep

into Mother Earth

thrust and crushed in;

the impression

of the boot



Hard seed

protects itself from

the cold surrounding it;

the swirling memory of what

once was.


The sky waters it

with Her tears

softening the outer shell

calling to something 


deep within,

something green



   and terrifying.


Hard shell holds 

tighter – 

No no no no!

No more vulnerability;

Unable to contemplate

more change

more unpredictability

more pain.


But the water keeps coming

and the shell keeps softening.


Fear turns to rage

as the seed rails 

against all

that has happened,

and not happened.

Mournful cries

of no no no no

burst forth

in a fiery screaming shriek




The passion and pain 

drive her energy

up, through, 

the fingers of Mother Earth

who lovingly protects her journey.


Mother Earth chants

in rhythm with the 

once hard seed’s scream;

No no no

met with 

Yes yes yes 


The seed

hurtles upward

crashing and breaking

the once hard-now soft 

crust of dirt.


Mother Earth’s chants

massage the

new green shoot

screaming its way

toward the 

healing warmth 

of the Sun.

She Missed Her Birthday Again

(by Tiffany Sankofa)


You missed your birthday again.

It’s the 8th time.

I guess you don’t need them anymore.


You always were

trying to simplify.

What could be better

feng shui

than not being stuck

in a body at all?


Well played, holl.

Well played.



I am free to love you


without the sting

of necessary losses.


You probably no longer care

that I pierced my nose

that I outswear 

the USMC

that I’m wilde and passionate and 

unapologetic in my 

perfectly flawed ways.



I am free to


in the

order, liturgy,

gentleness, quiet

where you could


your connectedness

to all.


We meet together

in ethereal whimsy

in the spaces in between

in the quiet beats

when i remember to notice

or when you convince 

a mocking bird

to follow and harass me.


We meet together

in ancestral circles

in our dedicated plot

to overthrow the planet

with crazy things like




Open-hearted hospitality 

And Love.


All things in a circle.


We have both 

dropped our shoulds

our have to’s

our musts.

We have shed 

the roles we held

this time around,

returning to

simple souls

twined up together,

walking through 

the muck and the mystery


as it always has been.


May I borrow 

Your Happy Birthday? 

I mean,

you aren’t using it.


I’ll send up some 

yellow balloons,

notice some

simple flowers,

amplify and support

a tender, muted voice,

go find 

some Mischief 

to sprinkle

in your honor,


with gratitude.


And while it is

likely irrelevant

to you, now,

in my still limited way

of celebrating 


that the subtle dash

reverently holds:

holly elaine mueller (willis) slaugh

December 4, 1939 ~ September 4, 2014