Life Before Death

On cold and rainy days, I get a little emotional. Today, being a blustery, blizzard-like, white-out snow day in New York City, I’m even more sappy, I guess. These are the days when the creative juices flow a little freer and it seems fitting to share the fruit borne in other days like this.

Life Before Death is an original verse I wrote a few months ago and that I am including in a poetry collection I will publish later this year. I thought I would give you, my blog readers, first glimpse at the written word. You can also click to watch me reciting the poem.

Life Before Death


Before I am born, there is a death.

My father’s father doesn’t wake up from the bed where he slept,

All around the district, girls whose secrets he kept,

And the old women he used to tip his hat to when he saw them on the street, they all wept.


They’re still mourning when I arrive but in my honor, they dry their eyes, to gaze into mine, all pink skin and milk-stained lips

Hair that’s just a fuzz and not long enough for the clips

my mother insists on, so they’ll know I’m a girl long before I’m old enough to swing my hips.


He would have loved her, they all say, handing me off when I cried,

Heartbroken because he’ll never count my toes, or steal me from the basket on the floor and take me outside.

Granny can’t keep her face dry long enough so no one tells me this story until long after she’s given up too and died.


I grow up missing a bone so I lean to the left, sometimes to the right,

I grow up in another man’s house except for jingle pocketed Fridays, poor man’s paydays,

when he drinks and locks me outside,

Shaking from hunger and cold and fear of whatever creatures rule the night.


Before I am born, my grandfather dies, his dark face now covered over with my mother’s pale skin, black blood still surging in my mulatto chest

I hear the echoes that still dance on his tombstone; nothing matters except your best,

I study, all A’s like he got but I don’t know about the legacy he left

No one tells me anything about life before death.


Scholarship, honors, then the same job he died and left

I wonder why the ground feels so hard but it’s because I’m standing in his footsteps,

My feet too small to fill his boots, my toes splayed, the toe box empty, pain in my instep.


It takes losing my place to find out he owned it first,

His dream, covered with the blurs, scramble now towards the sun and earth,

It takes losing my voice to hear his song, but now I dance to the music of his rebirth.


Nine months before I am born, he whispers his last sighs,

Hears leaves rustle inside jet streams, in a landlocked country, surging ocean tides

He doesn’t know why the spirit leaves him but it’s because of me that he dies


He doesn’t get to lift me to the moon and name me after the love he carries inside

He doesn’t know that I’ll carry him in me, or that his face shines through mine

He doesn’t get to dip the cloth in sugar to quench my tiny infant cry,

Doesn’t know that before I’m born, he has to die.

Copyright 2017 by Karen Wright

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First published on March 14, 2017 on

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Simon says:

    That’s so sad and yet so beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Run Wright says:

      Thanks for reading, Simon.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Simon says:

        Always my pleasure Karen 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, I love it! Thanks for sharing.


  3. kirstwrites says:

    That’s lovely, a very powerful reflection on what’s passed on and what’s lost from one generation to the next.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Run Wright says:

      Thanks for reading, Kirst. I enjoyed sharing my thoughts, almost as much as I liked writing them in the first place 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Paul Goddard says:


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Run Wright says:

      Thanks for reading, Paul.


  5. I thought this was moving and really felt that your willingness to recite the poem added such a personal depth to it. I am only recently discovering poetry, but I would love to see more of this from you!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mummy Wright says:

    Really, really beautiful. I felt it. My grandfathers both died before I was born too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Run Wright says:

      Oh my mummy. I am so sorry 😐


  7. This is really moving – I have goosebumps because it’s so good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Run Wright says:

      Oh my. Thank you so much for saying so. I really appreciate the feedback 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. A tear is traversing my cheek…

    Liked by 1 person

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