Invitation to Poetry: Unknown

Invitation to Poetry

Our 14th Poetry Party!  I select an image and suggest a title and invite you to respond with your poems, words, reflections, quotes, song lyrics, etc.  Leave them in the comments or email me and I’ll add them to the body of the post as they come in along with a link back to your blog if you have one (not required to participate!)  I’ll add your contributions all week and then I will draw a name at random on Friday from everyone who participates and will send the winner a copy of my newest zine What is Blossoming Within You?

This week’s photo is of a gravestone in the cemetery where Chief Sealth’s (who Seattle is named after) grave is found on the Suquamish reservation.  There were several of these unknown graves and they made me wonder who they might be, so I invite you to enter into your poetic imagination and give one of them (or several) a story.



Did you know it?
The life that went before?

Did you sit in the smoky darkness
telling stories to the children,
weaving baskets of cedar?

Did you harvest clams and oysters,
gather berries, nuts, sunflowers?
Did you fish for salmon, hunt the deer?

Or was that time an echo in your soul,
an ache in your bones,
an imprint in the chambers of your heart?

Were you man,
were you woman,
were you child?

Did you know it?
The life that went before?

-Tess at Anchors and Masts


“In the extraordinary narrative by Plato of the last days of Socrates, his friend
Crito is represented as asking him the question, repeated since so many million
times, ‘How and where shall we bury you?’  Socrates rebukes the phrase instantly:
‘Bury me,’ he answers, ‘in any way you please, if you can catch me to bury;’ and at
the same time smiling and looking gently round upon us, says his biographer, he
said: ‘I cannot persuade Crito, my friends, that I am this Socrates who is now
conversing with you and arranging each part of this discourse, but he obstinately
thinks I am that which he shall shortly behold dead, and he wants to know how he
shall bury me. But that which I have been arguing to you so long, that when I have
drunk this poison I shall be with you no longer, but shall depart straitway to some
happy state of the blest, I seem to have argued in vain, and I cannot convince him.’
‘ Say rather, Crito,’ he urges pleadingly once more, ‘say, if you love me, where
shall you bury my body, and I will answer you:  Bury it in any manner and in any
place you please.'”

-from “The Results of Spiritualism,” by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (mentor of Emily

(-submitted by kigen)


Universal Soldier

He’s five foot-two, and he’s six feet-four,
He fights with missiles and with spears.
He’s all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen,
Been a soldier for a thousand years.

He’a a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain,
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn’t kill,
And he knows he always will,
Kill you for me my friend and me for you.

And he’s fighting for Canada,
He’s fighting for France,
He’s fighting for the USA,
And he’s fighting for the Russians,
And he’s fighting for Japan,
And he thinks we’ll put an end to war this way.

And he’s fighting for Democracy,
He’s fighting for the Reds,
He says it’s for the peace of all.
He’s the one who must decide,
Who’s to live and who’s to die,
And he never sees the writing on the wall.

But without him,
How would Hitler have condemned him at Dachau?
Without him Caesar would have stood alone,
He’s the one who gives his body
As a weapon of the war,
And without him all this killing can’t go on.

He’s the Universal Soldier and he really is to blame,
His orders come from far away no more,
They come from here and there and you and me,
And brothers can’t you see,
This is not the way we put the end to war.

-Donovan (written by Buffy Sainte-Marie)

(-submitted by Suz Reaney)


“How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Parie?”

I was though, known. I pitched horse shoes behind the barn with all of you. Labored
hay into the loft  and drank water as if the result was who could collect more onto
flannel shirts then in the mouth. You called my name from a distance, shy when we
were close, and whispered what you wanted; my name punctuated with life.

The head stone looks more like a step-off for a carrage but this is some
unpronoucable town in France, where I fell…in many pieces two days before

-Tom Delmore at Crow’s Perch


You’ve become unknown and unknowable to most of the world
but I’ll open your grave with words of life!
I’ll claim you, call you
I’ll name and and know you
as friend and companion
I’ll invite you to lunch
we’ll saunter through the city
venture to the countryside
and talk about just plain stuff.
What’s my agenda?
The same as yours–
we’ll mutually bring each other back to life,
O Blessed One created in the image of the Divine
Who calls us “Friends!”

-Leah Sophia at This Far by Faith


We die,
this is the mortal condition,
and we are gone
only to live on
in heart and memory
of those to whom we were beloved
and even past that we linger
in the deeds and lives
of those we helped form.
Past that it must be enough
that righteous deeds are
never wholly forgotten
never blotted out,
never truly unknown.

-ymp at Means of Grace


We all began, unknown
through the dark lonely struggle
for life, and light, and knowing.
The world found us, and touched
our face, tracing its contours
learning who we were.
But the truth stayed wrapped,
unknown, guarded by the gatekeepers
on our soul, and the walls
of the images we erect, for knowing.
How many find their way,
down to the lighted inner room
where we sit, and know us?
Who looks into your eyes, and sees
and knows, and loves you regardless?
For this we fight for breath, and fall
screaming into the world. To be known
and loved, regardless. For this
we walk, long after weariness
has hunted us down, and found us;
to know, and love, regardless.
The rest brush by, butterfly wings
against the tight mask across our faces
and think that they have found us
but we remain, unknown.

-Tandaina at Snow on Roses



Paper thin, pale skin begins
to crepe like dry moth wings –
unable to carry any longer
the heavy loads
of heartbeat and breathe.

Clouded eyes blink and struggle
to focus for a minute –
a sharp exhale rushes out
and meets the shaky rise
as I struggle to stand.

Feet shuffle across a forest floor,
making their way
to lay this broken body down
and rest in a soft pine needle nest.

At last I find my placecard
for the eternal feast.

-Rich Murray at Pilgrim Path


Papoose strapped upon her back,
she strains against the weight.
In her heart she longs to dance
and break free toward the plains.
She cooks and works and serves her Chief
while dreams brew thoughts of life.
Now stooped and bent around the fire,
she stirs a soup of strife.

She’s been the squaw, the mother dear,
and now it seems so clear,
the stamp that’s lain across her heart
rings loudly in her ears.
She’s breathed it in and breathed it out.
It’s screamed within her mind.

Her heart, it breaks, the end is near.
She feels the loss, her own.
No one saw her in this life and
she has been alone.
She hears the word and knows it’s true
Her fate is all too clear.
From now until eternity,
she will be

-Kayce Hughlett at Diamonds in the Sky with Lucy


Only the surface
in granite or speckled stone
rain, cloud, and sun washed
tucked away in loamy earth
some who would remember you

are long themselves gone
and of a quiet life lived
no one sings your name
but for ancient hills and pines
a murmur of those you loved.

-Christine at Quiet Paths


back then, long ago
by us now
Yet never unknown
to God.

-stinuksuk at Signs-Along-the-Way


Uncle Nouwen?  Old uncle Henri?  Dear Lord, we’ve wondered where they laid you.
And here you are, plain as day, bless God.
I remember you saying you wanted a Keats-like epitaph,
but I guess UNKNOWN in stone is just as good.

Last we heard, you had wandered off from leagues of ivy
to commune with the least of these.
That sounds just like you, unk. nown.
Dandelions always fit you better’n ivy.

The contemplatives proudly claim you as their own, but wish you wrote thicker books.
The evangelicals quote you in hushed tones before leadership conferences begin,
but never from the pulpit.  Buncha’ cowards.
You were really unknown to both of them, huh?

Ha!  Sweet Jesus, you got the last word, didn’t you?
UNKNOWN. unk. nown.  We always did appreciate your wit.
Hey, that Wounded Healer book was really something.
Just like you, Uncle Henri.
Rest in peace.

-John Blase at The Dirty Shame



Who knew you then?

You, who once stood upon this earth,

this earth where blood was shed?



Hunter, hunted?

Who knows you now?

Your body is earth upon earth upon earth

woven into generations of flowers, trees,

and grass; the very air.

Who knew you when

there were feasts and dances and songs,

when toddlers learned to crawl and walk,

and elders wore their wisdom

as a bear its fur, giving warmth and warning

to those who would take heed?

Who knew you? We ask.

We ask for a new way:

For peace to make her way

through bush and berry,

water and wave,

root and tree,

mind and heart,

hand and hand.

And as the sun and moon

dance their dance, O Great Spirit,

help us know—know our names

and kill no more.

-Martha-Louise Harkness



i awoke one day to find
quite un-be-known’st to me,
had over taken my being
and begun living
under the pretense
that she was in fact me-
more specifically
she was
the culmination of all
that i have been…

how is it possible
that all of the angst and chaos
and passion and obsession
that i put into being me..
has culminated
in some graying,
middle aged woman
whose greatest sense of accomplishment
comes from painting word pictures
of her tainted memories???

-paisley at the ink pot


Maybe, just maybe, we are all unknown
Yet buried deep inside our clay there maybe a deep primal knowing
No need for name or language
Maybe the Mystery and the Silence are the Blessing

-Betty Curran


Two Weeks Notice 

My corpse was found,
I lied alone;
I’m now unbound,
my soul unknown.

I lied alone,
you were not near;
my soul unknown,
my life unclear.

You were not near,
two weeks, then quit;
my life unclear,
got rid of it.

Two weeks, then quit,
had some time left,
got rid of it,
my heart bereft.

Had some time left,
I’m now abound;
my heart bereft,
my corpse was found.

Noah the Great


Warrior Gone

Brown mother, face laughing,
Lifts you up to show the sky!
Little man, what will come?
What will happen in your life?

Dark eyes, so shining,
Smile so broad it lifts the heart!
Such a one will be a warrior,
Or a sage of great renown.

Handsome face, and strong,
Surely meant for better things!
Life is good and ripe with  promise,
Love is waiting, just unseen.

Pleasure calls, and city lights,
Wine and women, sweet and strong!
Work undone and money ending,
Just wait  another little while.

A “good Indian?” What good are you?
I can show you who is boss!
Go back to the reservation,
Where your kind of man  belongs.

Dark eyes, so dull and empty,
Hope has gone  and shame has come,
Go seek the peace of mother’s love,
Well, one more day, then maybe home.

Home?  Where is my home?
The man, afraid, can not recall,
So he stays and grows more weary,
Drinks and cries and fights and falls.

One dark day, in winter lonely,
In a room alone and still,
The warrior dies with no one watching,
Only known to others gone.

Send him to hix next of kin
Surely someone knows him still?
Send him to the reservation,
Where they will remember him.

The mother and the father too,
Grown old with years of waiting,
Have died and left no one at home,
No one who waits or watches.

The baby with the shining eyes,
Smile broad and face so strong,
He has gone and is forgotten,
Buried now, he is Unknown.

-Singing Owl at The Owl’s Song



Unknown, it says on the grave
and certainly,
your lives are unknown to us.

These trees remember
when this was your home
before disease and arrogance
pushed you aside.

You have disappeared,
but the land does not forget
the imprints of your moccasins.

You walked softly along
the same ridge path
we use today.

You knew and loved this salt air
long before we laid claim
to this spot of earth.

The rivers carry your names,
Necanicum and Nehalem.
The word Clatsop still lives.

I would love to sit by a fire
and hear your stories
of generations on this land.

There are whispers that
some of you survived,
but for now

This grave
is the only reminder of
how much has been forgotten.

-Pam McCauley


sometimes i come
and rest beside you
your exhaled warmth
shrouded in sunshine

placed in a grave
beside a flowing river
i come to you

soul shining bright
blue eyes sparking
you make me laugh

alone together
your charm invites
memories overflowing

i know not where you are
but here beside me
is where you are i come

-OneMoreBeliever at Piece of Pie


among the rocks
at walnut grove
your silence drumming
in my bones,
tell me your names.
nobody mentioned slaves
and yet the curious tools
shine with your fingerprints.
nobody mentioned slaves
but somebody did this work
who had no guide, no stone,
who moulders under rock.
tell me your names,
tell me your bashful names
and i will testify.
the inventory lists ten slaves
but only men were recognized.
among the rocks
at walnut grove
some of these honored dead
were dark
some of these dark
were slaves
some of these slaves
were women
some of them did this
honored work.
tell me your names
foremothers, brothers,
tell me your dishonored names.
here lies
here lies
here lies
here lies
– “at the cemetery, walnut grove plantation, south carolina, 1989” by Lucille Clifton as published in The Language of Life: A Festival of Poets by Bill Moyers. Doubleday. 1995.
(submitted by Julie Haurykiewicz )

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

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