After You Died
The print and online journals where poems by Gwendolyn Jensen have appeared include Amethyst Arsenic, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Comstock Review, Harvard Review, The Malahat Review, Measure, Nashville Review, Salamander, Sanskrit, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.
After spending many years in academia, Gwendolyn retired from the presidency of Wilson College in 2001. She now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and serves as a board member of Off the Grid Press, a press for poets over sixty. Birthright, her first book, was published by Birch Brook Press in a letterpress edition (with a second printing in 2012).
But of course I didn't know you had died, not right away.
I was at a meeting, drove home, and Father told me, and we
embraced for you, and for each other. We had to go to you,
we had to arrange for what was left. The woman who cleaned
for us arrived, and I was abrupt with her when she asked a
question about her day's work. Our daughter died, I said,
and we must go now. We flew to you, to your house. We
had spoken the night before. The pain had moved into your
brain you said, it hurt so much. Did you plan your death?
Or did you let death come to you? And where were you?
What happens when a person dies? You were at the morgue.
And did we want to see you? No, we did not. I hope you
do not mind. It was just an automatic response, a reflex really,
but you must have been cold by then, and even sick you were
so very warm. And then we went to bed, the bed where you
had died the night before. A friend had washed the sheets and
made it up again. When you bought this little house you told
us you were startled on your first night to see the bedroom
ceiling full of stars, a luminescence that held the light of day.
And so we slept, full of thought, and overhead a field of stars.