‘The Minister’ by Anne Stevenson

Graveside

We’re going to need the minister
to help this heavy body into the ground.

But he won’t dig the hole;
others who are stronger and weaker will have to do that.
And he won’t wipe his nose and his eyes;
others who are weaker and stronger will have to do that.
And he won’t bake cakes or take care of the kids –
women’s work. Anyway,
what would they do at a time like this
if they didn’t do that?

No, we’ll get the minister to come
and take care of the words.

He doesn’t have to make them up,
he doesn’t have to say them well,
he doesn’t have to like them
so long as they agree to obey him.
We have to have the minister
so the words will know where to go.

Imagine them circling and circling
the confusing cemetery.
Imagine them roving the earth
without anywhere to rest.

– Anne Stevenson, ‘The Minister’, in The Collected Poems 1955–1995 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 62.

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