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Reading “Untitled poem about sensitization” & “The things the dead have touched” by Erin Noteboom


Poetry Lunch S4E6

Reading “Untitled poem about sensitization” and “The things the dead have touched” by Erin Noteboom from A knife so sharp its edge cannot be seen, Brick Books.


Two poems about grief — the first names it specifically and the second holds that specificity up for closer scrutiny. I’ve been thinking about the dead this week as we made a little ofrenda (altar) to honor loved ones who have passed, after the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos. I’m not one for holidays much but I love this tradition and am happy to have started it in a small way. I like having photographs of dead relatives by our dinner table; it feels like they’ve come for a meal, finally.

I think the opening of the second poem here is also funny. If you’ve had someone impossibly close die impossibly (and isn’t death always impossible to us living?) then you know those terrible awkward decisions that have to happen about socks. Shoes. Books. Paper bits. Every kind of ephemera begs to be preserved when you’ve lost the person who touched it. I consider myself a minimalist and I don’t put much stock in clinging to possessions but even I have kept funny little things just to see them. To remember. Because I think that’s the greatest fear—forgetting. It happens regardless if we keep living which is of course the thing to do. Still hurts.

The idea of those smallest things that slay really caught me here. I know that feeling well and I hate it and it’s completely out of my control. The repetition at the end of the first poem I find to be particularly gutting. I know it’s true the first time but I brush it aside and then she says it again, damn clear and leaves you there. Gosh do I want to be nicer to myself the next time the smallest thing gets me.


Link to purchase

Get the book here: A knife so sharp its edge cannot be seen.