(Services of William Reese)


At the grave site,

as each star is swallowed

by a fold

or white-glove tuck,

the flag moves,

slowly, precisely,

each tug calculated

and rehearsed.


The gatherers are silent,

hearing each move,

though inaudible.

The only sound lifting

above us is a baby

whose lips begin suckling

in his mother’s arms.


The sound, so visceral,

so intense, its primal longing

moving him closer

to his mother’s breast,

is drifting upward

above the flag

as it slowly, steadily,

crawls toward its end.


The crisp finality

of its pointed blue

floats within

the widow’s arms

as the mother steps away,

the infant clamping beneath

her shawl onto the nearest





Like an old movie,

sepia tone soaking through light

falling frame by frame,

slow death rattling across

the pavers,


Or even flashing birth—forecasting shadow

as well as brightness,


Old garden,

clicking and anxious,

cicada-filled, scratchy

with dusk

and gangly June,

spreading beyond your marks,


I get it,

still spellbound by bold

displays and clapping

hands of cottonwoods,


Yet sense a difference—the bloating at seams

and pause, tinted

by Russian olive,


And the movie—much bluer and beautiful,

resonates with irony,

now that I must leave it.





Lone tree tilting bronze

with late summer,

you ache with age and lost



Dawn jogs by,
yet dusk drags itself
slowly, until darkness

crawls onto your leaves;


Still, you cry out

to the heavens.
Your arms fly up,
frantic with wind.


Tall tree, grasping sky
with gnarled fingers,

clawing at last strands

of light,


Lay your head
onto night’s just-washed pillow.

Let moon drizzle silver onto dreams.


Breathe the wild chartreuse
of saplings sparking
with sprouts still undimmed,
untorn, untouched
by winter.


Know in your sleep
the fresh pink of young April,
even as your first leaf loosens
to drop.



About the poet:

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, performance poet Jean Howard resided in Chicago from 1979 to 1999. She has since returned to Salt Lake City. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Off The Coast, Clackamas Literary Review, Harper’s Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Eclipse, Atlanta Review, Clare, Folio, Forge, Fugue, Fulcrum, Crucible, Gargoyle, Gemini Magazine, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Jet Fuel Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, decomP, DMQ Review, The Tower Journal, Minetta Review, The Burning World, The Distillery, The Oklahoma Review, OxMag, Pinch, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Penmen Review, Pisgah Review, ken*again, Chronogram, The Cape Rock, Quiddity Literary Journal, Grasslimb, Rattlesnake Review, Concho River Review, Spillway, Spoon River Review, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Verdad, Wild Violet, Willard & Maple, Wisconsin Review, WomenArts Quarterly Journal, Word Riot, and The Chicago Tribune, among seventy other literary publications. Featured on network and public television and radio, she has combined her poetry with theater, art, dance, video, and photography.

A participant in the original development of the nationally acclaimed “Poetry Slam” at the Green Mill, she has been awarded two grants for the publication of her book, Dancing In Your Mother’s Skin (Tia Chucha Press), a collaborative work with photographer, Alice Hargrave. She has been organizing the annual National Poetry Video Festival since 1992, with her own award-winning video poems airing on PBS, cable TV, and festivals around the nation.