Denise Duhamel

The Unreturning, 2019
April 24, 2020 Duhamel Denise

(after Wilfred Owen)

Suddenly cops crushed black citizens, hurled
Their expletives over speakers. The Wall
Was code for “Fuck You,” immigrants appalled
When cages signaled the end of their world.

On CNN I watched, tried to be woke.
Each one whom Life exiled I named and called.
But dumb Poetry did nothing. Enthralled
With Justice, I was naïve when I spoke.

The Dead peered at me. I scrubbed pots with Dawn
As if I could scrub the Dead from my mind.
Like the sink, my imagination drained.
And I pondered how the World has withdrawn,
Gagging on Religion, closing the blinds.
I made sure my door was bolted and chained.


Denise Duhamel’s most recent books of poetry are Second Story (Pittsburgh, 2021) and Scald (Pittsburgh, 2017). Blowout (Pittsburgh, 2013) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, she is a distinguished university professor at Florida International University in Miami.