Books·Canadian

Obits

Obits is a collection of prose poems in which a speaker attempts and fails to write obituaries for women and others whose memorials are missing, or who are represented only as statistics.

Tess Liem

Can poems mourn the unmourned? Obits is a collection of prose poems in which a speaker attempts and fails to write obituaries for women and others whose memorials are missing, or who are represented only as statistics.

To honour by elegy: she considers victims of mass deaths, fictional characters like Laura Palmer, her aunt (a woman who she knows less about than any of the people she researches), and her own Indonesian heritage. (From Coach House Books)

Obits won the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, a $2,000 prize for a debut book of poetry.

From the book

An exception.

When one February day felt like August
rain was a sound

she returned & the click click click
of the radiator expanding & contracting –

it was not like a lung.
The smell of dust burning

was not like an answer.
I mean, I remembered her

& it was exceptional
An obit., an opportunity:

a tumour took over her pancreas.
Opo tumon, hayo?

I never saw the thing.
Instead a philodendron lying flat

on a balcony across the street
& I assumed it was living.

Try to remember this
is part of a series of failures.

The plant on its side
not something you can just pick up

& how its leaves underwent 
winter, green & glossy,

was not like nothing.
I will not turn her into a plant.

I will not unearth her
like that.

Stop looking into the dirt, asking
did my grief knock me over

or did it not pick me up.


From Obits by Tess Liem ©2019. Published by Coach House Books.

 

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