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The Dead

At night the dead come down to the river to drink.
They unburden themselves of their fears,
their worries for us. They take out the old photographs.
They pat the lines in our hands and tell our futures,
which are cracked and yellow.
Some dead find their way to our houses.
They go up to the attics.
They read the letters they sent us, insatiable
for signs of their love.
They tell each other stories.
They make so much noise
they wake us
as they did when we were children and they stayed up
drinking all night in the kitchen.

—Susan Mitchell

from The Water Inside the Water, 1994
Harper Collins

Copyright 1994 by Susan Mitchell.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. from The Water Inside the Water. Copyright 1994 by Susan Mitchell. For further permissions information, contact W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Susan Mitchell (1944- ) is the author of three poetry collections, including Erotikon (HarperCollins, 2001). Her poems have appeared in magazines and journals such as the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, Fence, among others.

Learn more about Susan Mitchell at The Poetry Foundation.