Poetry: Unveiling by Linda Pastan

Unveiling by Linda Pastan

In the cemetery
a mile away
from where we used to live,
my aunts and mother
my father and uncles lie
in two long rows,
almost the way
they used to sit around
the long planked table
at family dinners.
And walking beside
the graves today, down
one straight path
and up the next,
I don’t feel sad, exactly,
just left out a bit,
as if they kept
from me the kind
of grown-up secret
they used to share
back then, something
I’m not quite ready yet
to learn.

“Unveiling” by Linda Pastan, from Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems 1968-1998.  W.W. Norton & Company, 2009.

American Poet Linda Pastan was born in New York City in 1932.

She writes short poems that address topics like family life, domesticity, motherhood, the female experience, aging, death, loss and the fear of loss, as well as the fragility of life and relationships.

Pastan has written over a dozen books and among her many awards are the Dylan Thomas award, a Pushcart Prize, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry, the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, in 2003.

She served as Poet Laureate of Maryland from 1991 to 1995

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22 Responses to Poetry: Unveiling by Linda Pastan

  1. Arindam says:

    Beautiful poem. Simple and so very meaningful. Thanks for sharing it. It was heart touching. :)

  2. magsx2 says:

    Hi,
    Another beautiful poem you have shared, and I really enjoyed the video of the reading as well, truly a great poet. :)

  3. Delightful reads, the one here and the ones she read. Simple, wise and true. Makes me want to try my hand at poetry more.

  4. What a poignant metaphor, feeling left out of the grown-up “experience” of dying and being dead! I love visiting cemeteries and the feeling of connection found there with those who have gone before me – it comforts me to know that when I am ready I will learn their secret, too, and that they have paved the way, so to speak… Thank you, Rosie – what a sweet, touching poem this is.

    My internet connection is running slowly this morning so I’ll have to come back later and listen to the poetry reading when the technology here sorts itself out…

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Barbara,
      It’s beautiful to think of our relatives keeping each other company around the graveyard, and still keeping their secrets from us.

      My mom used to talk Hindustani with her mother and sister so us children couldn’t understand them… Unfortunately the three of them are buried very far from each other. I’m comforted that my Mom is buried next to my Dad.

      I hope you manage to listen to the poetry reading. I really hear the poem when a good poet reads their work aloud.

      • I’m back and had a listen. Loved “Something About the Trees.” There does seem to be something about 50-somethings, an added facet of wisdom…

        My paternal aunts used to speak Ukrainian when they didn’t want us cousins to understand what they were saying, too. :)

        The days of whole families lying buried together in the same plot are probably numbered, if not already gone. It is good when at least a married couple may be laid to rest next to each other, like your parents. And with cremation getting more and more popular, some of the dead are never buried, but are toted around in an urn from place to place, to wherever their surviving loved ones are currently living.

  5. Love it! Thanks for sharing the poem, and the nice biography of Linda!!!

    • dearrosie says:

      Hey Betty what a pleasure to see your comment when you’re all the way in Peru. I love your photos of the Peruvian women knitting and wearing their beautiful hats.

  6. I loved this…it resonates and brings me immediately to a family cemetery in rural Mississippi…I’ve been there a few times in my life–my grandmother’s entire family for generations is all in that little spot. I always feel like I’m on holy ground. What a wonderful poet! Thank you, Rosie. Hope you have a very delightful weekend. Debra

    • dearrosie says:

      Hi Debra,
      If I walked in a cemetery that was filled with many generations of my relatives, I’d also feel as though it were holy ground, but as my family have moved every generation since the 1880’s, I’ll never know what it feels like. I look forward to you writing a post on it one day.

      We’re going hiking tomorrow. What are you going to do?

      • I’m sticking close to home this weekend, Rosie. My husband had some hand surgery…all is well, but it is going to slow us down, which may be a good thing. Enjoy your hike–before Sunday’s rain :-)

      • dearrosie says:

        Hi Debra,
        I wish your husband a speedy recovery.

        Are we still expecting rain on Sunday? It means we’ll be busy at the Museum! Did you know that people always go to Museums on rainy days?

  7. souldipper says:

    Thoroughly enjoyable, Rosie. I loved the first poem – especially the descriptions of how children ought to be born!

    Have a good weekend. Hope you have lots of down time! XO

    • dearrosie says:

      I don’t know why but when folks enjoy the poems I share here it gives me as much pleasure as if I’d written them.
      I didn’t know Linda Pastan before I found this poem. I look forward to reading more of her poetry.

      Thanks for the good thoughts re the weekend Amy. Mr F and I are going on an 8 mile hike tomorrow.

  8. shoreacres says:

    I do like this poem. I’m so glad that, even though my mother wanted to be cremated, I took her “home” to be buried next to dad. I understand concerns about space and all that, but one good thing about cremation is that three people can be buried in one plot.

    And I had to laugh a little when I went back to the plot she and dad share now. From that spot, I can see the stones of all their bridge-playing friends. I’d forgotten that about eight couples went together and bought their spaces all at once – Mom was the last to die, so now they have four full tables for a game!

    And I think it’s important to have a place to go to, for remembrance and connection. Funny that we talk about feeling “scattered” in our daily life as a bad thing, and yet think scattering of ashes is good. (That just occurred to me.)

  9. Jo says:

    Simply beautiful.
    The poems (and poets) you’ve introduced me to are so “affecting”.
    I wish YOU’d been my English teacher way back when!

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