All Souls’ Day

A Poem by Sandra Kohler

Thursday, early November. Tonight there’ll be
candles for All Souls’ Day, the day of the dead.
On Tonawanda Street, yesterday’s rain and

wind bring down a scatter of gold to pave
the gray macadam, echo the gingko gleaming
overhead along the street’s alley of trees.

Underfoot gingko leaves coat the sidewalk,
along with their reeking pulped fruit. I walk
here on beauty and filth, past shabby gardens,

their flush of late roses like diamonds in dung,
past decaying bones, shards of glass, torn paper,
past corners where blackened candles, long

since guttered, mark ceremonial offerings
to those who’ve died in other years. On these
streets every day can be the day of death for

someone, player in or bystander to a world
whose codes of behavior kill for infractions,
leave others mourning. As if this city’s streets,

its squares were the sun-baked roads, stony
agorae of ancient Ithaca or Ilium, ruled
by cruel irrational gods who cannot pity
or comprehend human mortality.

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