this poem is from The Helen Burns Poetry Anthology: New Voices, edited by poet Mark Doty and published by The Academy of American Poets.
Graves We Filled Before the Fire
by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
Some lose children in lonelier ways:
tetanus, hard falls, stubborn fevers
that soak the bedclothes five nights running.
Our two boys went out to skate, broke
through the ice like battleships, came back
to us in canvas bags: curled
fossils held fast in ancient stone,
four hands reaching. Then two
sad beds wide enough for planting
wheat or summer-squash but filled
with boys, a barren crop. Our lives
stripped clean as oxen bones.
“Mark Doty has put together a selection of poems that includes so many poets I didn’t know in my twenties, who are such important parts of my writing life now,” says Gabrielle Calvocoressi. “He seems to have heard us all talking to each other before we knew we were. Which is the mark of a great teacher and a great poet: to blaze a trail for us to come forward and to remind us of who we were.”
In his introduction to the anthology, Doty writes:
I was myself the recipient of one of these prizes, in 1971. I felt the good things that a prize makes a young poet feel: heartened, a little more brave, confirmed in the notion that…my private scratchings and fumblings might become, if I could find ways to shape them, something that could speak to someone else.