THE LIST - Rosemary Sullivan Poems


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It occurred to me that we should write down the names of the dead.

Then it was necessary to have a system of measuring time
to write them down accurately, in order:
which one came first and which ones afterward.

At once, when that was done, I saw what poor memories we have,
and that everything we know is only poor memory.
People would talk to me of such-and-such a dead man
as of a great chief or evil spirit from the days of the giants.
But I had my list. I knew, and it was always thus:
the man they spoke of was a trembler and woman-beater
who had died in his sleep six or seven years ago.

Some day my list will be so long
that its keeper, when I am dead, will not know anything
about the men who had the names at the beginning.
Trying to know them from what I write,
he will know that he makes them up out of himself.

The list is now the dead. Never again will they
come back to triumph over me
in the fire and the darkness outside the fire.
I've done it. I've finally killed them. I've killed the dead.