“What The Dead Don’t Need” by Faith Shearin

No need for shoes, of course, or closets full of empty
dresses. No need for the shade of trees or the approval
of parents and friends. They don’t care about the objects
of this world: a new computer, a house overlooking
the sea. The place they occupy may or may not contain
a window to all they’ve left behind. We, the living, think
of them without knowing who or what they have become.
Ghosts? Dust? Butterflies? Wind? Other mysteries —
puberty, sex, childbirth — are the business of life, and
anyone can tell their story. On the matter of death: only
a closed box and the silence of earth or ashes. When my
daughter was small, my disappearance behind a blanket
or curtain seemed permanent. How could I exist if
I was not visible? When I returned, she was grateful:
laughter and kisses, her hand on the roots of my hair.

“What The Dead Don’t Need” by Faith Shearin, published in The Sun magazine, March 2008.

13 thoughts on ““What The Dead Don’t Need” by Faith Shearin

    1. Isn’t it beautiful, Mike? I really love Shearin’s work…. There’s one piece that makes me bawl like a baby; I’ve tried to record it for the site, but my voice keeps cracking from emotion. I may just do it anyway.

      Highly recommend Faith’s work to everyone….AND the Sun magazine (they published that Strayed essay I sent you).


    2. Mike Mirarchi

      It really is stunning. I hope you’ll record her poem that makes you bawl like a baby. I would love to read it! It sounds like an amazing poem! And if your voice cracks from emotion, that will just make your reading all the more poignant, Christy. 🙂 And thanks for the tip about The Sun magazine. I’ll have to start reading it.


      1. Oh I probably will share it. Just have to work up the nerve again.;)

        The Sun is a great publication. They offer a lot of stuff on their website, but my friend @mamamickterry (Michelle) was sweet enough to gift me a subscription, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

        Have a great day Mike!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Love Faith…so easy for a non-poet like me to understand.
        I’m glad you love The Sun – I just let my subscription lapse…only because I already have so many wonderful issues I want to finish reading 🙂

        PS: Thanks for the shout-out above! So cool – WP sent me an e-mail when you did it. I really am starting to feel the pull of blogging again. Though, not yet. Just want to waller around in your poetry for a bit longer.


      2. I wondered how or if you’d get notified, that’s good to know! I remember seeing something about that, so figured I’d try it out.

        I ordered several batch orders of The Sun bundle archives a while back. They’re in my nightstand cabinet waiting to be read! I debated just sending them to you, so it’s funny that you have your own stack:)

        I discovered Faith via The Writer’s Almanac. Gah, such a loss to poetry. I now have all of her books. (Speaking of…I just got a signed first edition of Linda Pastan’s Five Stages of Grief…from like 1978. I heart Amazon.)

        I heart you too! c-

        Sent from my iPhone


        Liked by 1 person

  1. Willene Jaqua McRae

    Hi Christy,

    It meant so much to me to read this particular poem this morning and to be introduced to Faith Shearin’s work. Today is my 20th wedding anniversary – I celebrated 8 of them with Russell by my side and now 12 of them trying to locate him in some other way. He died after a battle with ALS in 2006. I spent some time this morning with my journal, as I do every year on this day, writing memories, aware that they are fading, wondering if he is trying to find me too. And then I got to read this poem. It is a precious synchronicity.

    I have since remarried and I have a life full of love and blessings. But this day continues to be one of the hard ones. I am so grateful to have been held by “What the Dead Don’t Need.”

    I’ve written you once before, before your temporary hiatus. I’ve meant to check in to tell you how happy I am that Words for the Year is active again. I treasure it. This blog introduced me to poetry. I found it quite accidentally, several years ago. But it is part of my life now. I want you to know how much it means to me. Words for the Year is among the truly good things in my life.

    Thank you for all that you do.

    take care,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Willene ❤

      I remember your email and I am so grateful for you. I was moved to tears then, and again, moved to tears now. I'm not sure that I ever replied directly to you, though I know I mentioned you in a post here…I think that was such a dark time in my life (mood-wise) and I didn't want to reply as an emotional mess. I apologize. I'm so glad you commented here.

      You come to mind often when I question my sanity and perseverance in keeping up with this site. My mind plays tricks sometimes by telling me that "oh it doesn't matter if you keep the blog…blogs come and go everyday…there are plenty other poetry sites…blah blah blah…" But then I remember you…and other readers like you that have found the site– usually quite accidentally…and how you each find some light here when it may be needed. And then I remember how dark my own life was when I was not reading and sharing poetry. Poetry truly is a light that shines on and in our lives…sometimes as brightly as the sun, sometimes in just a tiny sliver (see tomorrow's post), but it can be enough to change a moment, a day, a life. I am blessed to be a messenger in that regard (for the poets are the true light-bringers), and blessed to receive that much needed light too. I hope that makes sense.

      Grief brings many of us here, together. Many readers have lost (or are losing) partners and spouses, lovers and family, innocence and hope and faith. I miss my mother (and aunt and grandparents) every day, and I too have struggled with memory, not wanting to forget. (I will have to email you an essay my alter-ego wrote about not wanting to forget my mother…It was named "It's not a shrine or anything"). I know certain days can be tougher than others, and I know, as Pastan wrote, "grief is a circular staircase." I know it doesn't truly get better, but it does get different, and we can go on and live our lives and be happy and grateful, AND we can still be sad and struggling with grief; I know it is not an either-or. Friends have helped me. Poetry has helped me. And kind souls like yourself, Willene, have helped me. I honor Russell and the time you shared together.

      I am grateful our paths have crossed, and I am grateful you found this space when you did, and I am grateful you left me such a beautiful message. Thank you so very much. ❤


      1. Willene Jaqua McRae

        Hi Christy,
        I look forward to your “alter-ego” essay! And I appreciate your telling me that you too experience grief and the fading of memories with the loss of your mother. Your experience means a lot to me. I love the image of a circular staircase. And I agree that grief, like love, does not end. Without the love, I would not feel the grief, and so I am willing to experience both as fully as I am able.

        Your blog is so precious. I am glad I have a little part in affirming that. It is difficult, I think, to know that our passions really matter to anyone else. I think of this phenomenon as the vincent-van-gogh principle. When I wonder if what I do matters, I remember the paintings he might not have painted.

        Anyway, please know that any time you post a poem, I am reading it that same day, with gratitude for the nourishment.

        Please count me among your poetry-sisters.
        I don’t know how to make a heart, but I would if I could!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Without the love, I would not feel the grief, and so I am willing to experience both as fully as I am able.

        This sums it up so well, Willene. Did you ever see the movie Shadowlands about CS Lewis and his beloved wife Joy? There’s a line in it that has stayed with me ever since seeing it. Paraphrasing… “The pain now, for the joy then. That’s part of the deal.”
        The sad thing is that most of us–including myself–take the joy for granted and are rarely mindful of it, of the simple normalcy, until it is too late. I guess that is one of the silver linings of grief; it teaches us to be mindful of the love we have. Or at least it attempts.

        And oh that silly heart… it took me a long time to figure out how to make it, haha. It’s a ‘<' and a '3'. If you put them together and look at it sideways<3 it looks like a heart, or to me, two scoops of ice cream. Most websites now will automatically turn those characters into a picture of a little heart.

        Thank you for your friendship and warm words. -c


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