Dear Poetry Pharmacy,

We had a friend who died on Jan. 11, his 94th birthday. He was our neighbor for many years. He once made us a platform bird feeder and came over and installed it. He also liked to feed a porcupine (who lived under his shed) an apple a day. He was an avid bird watcher.

We'd like to send his widow a poem. Any good ideas?


I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear friend and neighbor.

The first poem that comes to mind is contemporary writer Nick Flynn’s “God’s Will.” In it, the speaker tries to remember the name of a specific bird who, like us, tries to “make (our) beloved(s)” “want to stay” with us. It’s a lovely piece that has crying in it and is likely to evoke more crying: the healing kind.

Another poem that might cause the good kind of crying? Joe Wilkins’ poem “My Son Asks for the Story About When We Were Birds,” from his 2016 collection. The poem gorgeously catalogs all the things that were possible for us when we were birds, and closes with the lines “We didn’t know / we could love one another / with such ferocity. That we should.”

And one more idea, if you think your friend’s widow is open to something a bit dark: the poem “Last Things” by William Meredith, a meditation on mortality which has a porcupine crossing a rural road in the first section, and in its last section speaks directly to the “unthinkable event” that is death.

All three of these poems can be read in full on the Academy of American Poets website,

Thank you for finding space in your life for the remedy of poetry.

Full versions of all poems mentioned in this column may be easily found for no charge online through the sites mentioned or by searching for the title and author’s name. Or consult your local librarian! Behind the counter at the Poetry Pharmacy is Arielle Greenberg, Belfast Poet Laureate for 2019 and 2020. Arielle invites you to write in with your poetry needs to She will fill prescriptions in this monthly column.