Their reward is
they become innocent again,

and when they reappear in memory
death has completely erased
the blurs, given them boundaries. They rise

and move through their new world with clean,
clear edges. My grandmother, in particular
has become buoyant, unattached finally

from her histories, from the trappings
of family. By no means was she

a good woman. But the dead don’t care anymore for that.
Weightless, they no longer assume
responsibility, they no longer

have bodies. Once,

at the end of August, after swimming
in the muddy pond

I’d gone into the living room, cool
as vodka, where my grandmother
sat. Greed thins a woman,

I remember her rings, bigger
than her fingers.
Water ran down my legs

onto the floor becoming slippery
and my grandmother, her breath
scratchy from cigarettes and blended whiskey,

leaned into my ear and whispered
you’re an ugly girl. Do I have

to forgive her? My mother tells me

no one ever loved her,
so when I see her, I see her again in the park
in her pink tailored suit, suede pumps,

I see her moving among the strange
gentlemen that have gathered, the dark
powerful men. She is still young, blonde

and most of all, she is beyond reach, beautiful.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Kate Northrop's poem The Dead

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