Planting My Father

I stop when I see
the small black box;
all that remains of the body
I kissed goodbye.
I can’t put you on the mantel
as my sister asks;
I find more peace sliding
you into my mother’s desk
until the frozen ground
turns soft in spring…
I walk the shady path in May
cross the short wood bridge,
pause to watch the leaf-blackened waters
then take the steps built
into the rear stone wall
enfolding our family cemetery.
Death has seemed friendly
because I met it first as a child
seated on the gold-painted lion
guarding the cemetery’s front gate.
Like an afterimage I see you
and yet I hold only
this little box
over the soil I’ve turned.

planting my father

You loved the soil,
turning earth
into a bucket of blueberries
we made into pie.
I mix your ashes
with the earth you loved
and these small bulbs;
thinking you will be pleased
to be part of their planting,
thinking myself clever
to arrange an eternity
of flowers for you.
When I return though,
I see no flowers.
It’s too wet here
for bulbs to grow…
It is only later
that I realize
it’s your seed
that will go on forever.

— Ellen Leiserson


Ellen Leiserson has written poetry all her life but only submitted poetry twice—both times the poems were accepted for publication. When she was 16 two poems were published in The Unsung, an anthology of previously unpublished American contemporary poetry (1964) and 50 years later, two poems she submitted when she was 65 were published in Grief, When Women Waken, A Journal of Poetry, Prose and Images (2014). She and her husband live in Maryland. Her daughter, an editor and creative non-fiction writer, encourages her not only to write but also to submit for publication.

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