Burial Mother by Emma Colman

Digging through dirt, my mother
finds a delicate sponge-like skull with the tip
of her shovel. The crown of it gives up
and sags in with a crunch.
Peeling matted fur from his surface,
angled sockets of a rodent shining clean,
she presses the reddish mess between
curious cracking fingers.
The work sucks the moisture from her skin.
She is standing in the Rose Garden.
She calls from the back of the house,
Which Animal Was the Last to Die?

For 17 years, my mother has buried pets,
both whole and cremated, under roses.
There is not an empty plot left.

My own grandmother’s ashes
sit in a jade marble box in the attic.

Fellow beings, defenseless,
make my mother sweat
in the night.
She is back, huddled in the shower
With her brother and sister,
shrinking as her mother’s
shouts are carried through the house.
What Had We done Wrong?

She continues through
the garden, peeling Japanese Beetles
from the roses,
the markers of burial beds.


Emma Colman was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Highland Park, a northern suburban town. Growing up, she explored poetry independently and with her father. It is something that they have always shared. She attended Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont for a year before transferring to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. She is now a sophomore at the college and study poetry, literature, and the German language.

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