Song (after Christina Rossetti)

Well, two songs actually. The result of a poetry exercise from In the Palm of Your Hand by Steve Kowit (see my Goodreads list at left for details). Write a response to Christina Rossetti‘s “Song,” giving different instructions to your beloved.

Here’s the original:


When I am dead, my dearest,

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember,

And if thou wilt, forget.


I shall not see the shadows,

I shall not feel the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain:

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set,

Haply I may remember,

And haply may forget.


Here’s my take in a traditional rhyme-y form:


When I am dead, my dearest,

Sleep on my side of the bed.

Hang on to my clothes and scribbles,

But do not be misled.


I won’t be coming back to you;

As much as it might seem

Like breath again is possible,

The past is now a dream.


Move forward, dearest, please, I say,

Accept that I am gone;

While you still stand in sunlight,

My curtains have been drawn.



And my more contemporary version:


When I am dead, my dearest,

sleep on my side of the bed.

Throw away my toothbrush and underwear and

stacks of spiral notebooks full of my daily scribbling—

you won’t be able to read them away.

But keep my special ballpoint pen;

it still writes good.


Oh, I’m not sure how successful I was with this exercise, but I haven’t written a poem for a while, so it felt good. And the contemporary one made me smile. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Song (after Christina Rossetti)

  1. Another fun exercise, Karin. And it reminded me to send you an email! And to try my hand at this:

    When I am dead, my binky,
    Sleep beside me in bed
    Until I become too stinky.
    Then it is time to cremate or bury —
    I don’t care which, ’cause I’m beyond worry.


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