Calling Out the Names

Calling Out the Names

Stripped of leaves, each limb
exposed, maple remembers the whoosh
of branches lush with wind and shade.

Even frozen solid or emptied by drought, river
remembers flood banks, the pulse
of current.

Grain in the loaf remembers field.

Scar remembers knife, but also suture
and the hand that bandaged.
Bed recalls absent sleeper

damp breath on the pillow.
Brush, stilled on the dresser, remembers knots
and what followed the untangling.

Honey remembers hive, bee and blossom.

Salmon tastes home
in the scent
of its birth stream.      

Sand remembers shell.
Gravel, the granite cliff.
Lung, breath. Throat, song.

And I remember you.

—Elizabeth Austen

Commissioned for the annual memorial service at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Published in New England Review, Vol. 40, No. 4.

Formatting altered to negotiate the gap between my layout skills and the available options.

8 thoughts on “Calling Out the Names

  1. Samanthe Sheffer

    Elizabeth, I’m always glad to find a post from you in my email. It feels similar to receiving a lovely card from a dear friend among the white business envelopes in the mailbox. In addition to the gift of your well-crafted, evocative poem, each post connects me to memories of times in your beautiful presence, at library or bookstore readings, or wandering wooded trails for writerly inspiration.
    With gratitude, an honest, and lately over-used word, Samanthe

  2. jesslily

    My mother is in her final days. I have been by her side, reading poetry to her, keeping her comfortable. Last night she began calling out the names of loved ones; after she was resting again your poem was the first thing I saw, and then read to her. Thank you for the deeply felt poem with profound timing.

    1. Elizabeth Austen

      Jess, your message is incredibly moving. I hope your mom’s passing is peaceful, and that being able to be with her gives you ease, despite the grief. Thank you for taking the time to let me know how the poem reached you. My heart is with you.

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