How do we meet the death of a loved one? Most recently, I’ve met the death of my father, and in “There is Only the Field,” published in the wonderful Braided Way, I liken it to the way antelope might try to tend for their own. May we all find ourselves bringing our best in the light of the loss of our loved ones. In early December, 2021, Braided Way nominated this poem for a Pushcart Prize. The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America.
Since 1976, hundreds of presses and thousands of writers of short stories, poetry and essays have been represented in our annual collections. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series. Every volume contains an index of past selections, plus lists of outstanding presses with addresses.
Other nominees included John Backman, Catherine Hamrick, Alfred K. LaMotte, Joe Plicka and Sophie Strand.
There Is Only the Field
On the day my father begins hospice,
I watch the pronghorn in the field,
marvel as their brown- and white-striped bodies
nearly disappear in the dead grass where
they graze. If only I could camouflage
my father so death can’t find him, so that pain
would never have discovered him.
Tomorrow, my mother and brother and I
will gather around him the way a herd
might gather, circling him as some antelope
circle their young. But death will come.
And we, unable to run fast enough,
unable to hide, will meet it together.
And if I could fight death, would I? Whatever horns
I have are more for ritual than dangerous.
When death arrives, I want to bring
my softest self. I won’t bargain,
but I’ll tell death it’s taking the best of us—
the one who worked hardest to survive.
When death arrives, I want to ask it, Please,
be gentle. He suffered so much already.
I want to tell death, You don’t get all of him.
I carry in me his goodness, his courage.
While I live, he will always be alive in this field.
–Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer