“Suicides” by Faith Shearin

There was the one who walked into a river
with her pockets full of stones and the one
who started her car with the garage door closed,
determined to drive herself elsewhere.
The youngest went into the kitchen
and placed her head where she had
so often placed chickens or hams.
These were the women whose voices
I carried in my backpacks, whose books
moved with me from one city to another
and, one day, I realized I had outlived
all of them. I was sad that they could
not describe the other world,
that they offered no map to old age.
Was it dangerous to write? I began
to walk more carefully beside rivers,
to eat cold food, to let someone else
back the car out of the driveway.

 

“Suicides” by Faith Shearin from Telling the Bees. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2015.

“Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin

Read by (an emotional) Christy. If the above doesn’t play for you, try clicking this link.


At a certain point he decided they could not afford
the dogs. It was someone’s job to take them one by one
behind a pile of ice and shoot them. I try to imagine
the arctic night which descended and would not lift,

a darkness that clung to their clothes. Some men objected
because the dogs were warmth and love, reminders
of their previous life where they slept in soft beds,
their bellies warm with supper. Dog tails were made

of joy, their bodies were wrapped in a fur of hope.
I had to put the book down when I read about the dogs
walking willingly into death, following orders,
one clutching an old toy between his teeth. They trusted

the men who led them into this white danger,
this barren cold. My God, they pulled the sleds
full of provisions and barked away the Sea Leopards.
Someone was told to kill the dogs because supplies

were running low and the dogs, gathered around
the fire, their tongues wet with kindness, knew
nothing of betrayal; they knew how to sit and come,
how to please, how to bow their heads, how to stay.

“Shackleton’s Decision” by Faith Shearin, from Moving the Piano. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011.

Related reading: Ernest Shackleton’s biography and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing.

“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.

“Places I Have Heard the Ocean” by Faith Shearin

In a cat’s throat, in a shell I hold
to my ear — though I’m told
this is the sound of my own
blood. I have heard the ocean
in the city: cars against
the beach of our street. Or in
the subway, waiting for a train
that carries me like a current.
In my bed: place of high and low
tide or in my daughter’s skates,
rolling over the sidewalk.
Ocean in the trees when they
fill their heads with wind.
Ocean in the rise and fall:
lungs of everyone I love.

“Places I Have Heard the Ocean” by Faith Shearin, from Moving the Piano. © Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2011.

“Natural Disasters” by Faith Shearin

During natural disasters two enemy animals
will call a truce, so during a hurricane
an owl will share a tree with a mouse
and, during an earthquake, you might find
a mongoose wilted and shivering
beside a snake. The bear will sit down
in a river and ignore the passing salmon
just as the lion will allow the zebra
to walk home without comment.
I love that there are exceptions.
At funerals and weddings, for example,
the aunts who never speak nod
politely to one another. When my mother
was sick even the prickly neighbors
left flowers and cakes at our door.

“Natural Disasters” by Faith Shearin from Telling the Bees. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2015.