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In memoriam, Anya Silver

We chose not to see
how close it hovered.
She had been sick so long
we had grown accustomed
to her bright scarves
and turbans as she sipped
her drink across the table
or read her poems
behind the podium,
such shakings, such delicacy.

She told the poets gathered
that her favorite season was Lent.
“It is a great comfort,” she said,
“ashes to ashes a reminder
that everyone, each
in their chosen pew, is dying.”

And now her digitized voice
only bits in the cloud,
her face a flicker of light and dark
on screens except her poems
where words have
the resonance of absence.

Even buried, bones live, motionless,
for many more years than
the body has breath.
and so her words

and the crumbling to ash
soot and oil on the pastor’s fingers.

Sitting in our pews
we breathe in the dissolution,
John Donne says, of royalty and pauper,
their mouths filled with dust,
our mouths filled with their dust.

Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner

Jill Peláez Baumgaertner is Professor Emerita of English and former Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies at Wheaton College. She also serves as poetry editor of the Christian Century.