Poetry by Jane Yolen


I doubt you, my scientist husband,
ashes spread throughout the world,
can assist me in this.

I doubt you can speak to me now
in English, German, even the Norwegian
you were studying 

at the moment of death
(long pause for metaphor)
laid his/her/its cold bony fingers 

on your unresisting shoulder,
forcing your face
towards the wall. 

I doubt you shuddered
from the cold hand,
or the feel of the bone. 

Doubt you demurred,
wrestled with, fought
the beast at your back, 

I doubt you gathered your wings,
flying up to a heaven
your mother so devoutly believed in. 

But then I am no scientist,
so what do my doubts matter,
except the one 

in which I doubt,
even at my own death,
I will see you again. 

Prove me wrong
And your life’s hypotheses

 all you lived with
thrown into doubt.
I will not be that untrue.



I conduct the music of my life,
the misericordia of seventy-five years.
Sometimes there is a sonata of desire,
a canon of complaint.
Sometimes a trio of children sing apart,
when together brings up painful truths.
My brother solos, sometimes so low
I do not hear him. I rap the baton
on his knuckles, we move on.
I date. I outdate.
I lift my skirts and dance.

Do I mourn you, who left
before this song was done?
Grief is a ground bass to a larger symphony.
But it is not the only tune I hear. 

The Hem of Eighty

If I ever touch the hem of eighty,
will I understand mourning?
There is no end of loss.
The world is a crypt,
and we just compost for grass.
I do not want to weep any more
for the underground,
those partisans of humanity
who go before us
like the scything of the early harvest
cut down before its time.
We walk on their remains.

Jane Yolen, often called "the Hans Christian Andersen of America," is the author of over 370 published books including 10 books of poetry for adults. Of those ten, three are about her late husband: The Radiation Sonnets, Things to Say to a Dead Man, What We Leave Behind.: She has won two Nebulas, a World Fantasy Award, a Caldecott, three Mythopoeic awards, two Christopher Medals, a nomination for the National Book Award, the Jewish Book Award, the Kerlan Award, the Catholic Library Regina Medal, half dozen nominations for the Pushcart Prize. Six colleges and universities have given her honorary doctorates for her body of work. 

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