Two Poems — “Sound of Sorrow” and “They don’t allow no moustaches in Kalispell, Montana”

Sound of Sorrow

There is a sound, and it is heartbreaking.
It is the sound of a mother wailing
the loss of a child. It doesn’t matter how
her child was lost; what matters is that
her child is dead.

Do you hear it? It is there, rising and falling
in ululating rhythms like a wind
wailing through walls, windows and trees,
tearing your heart with its agony.

You don’t want to hear it, but you must. It is insistent.
Listen closely. For nine long months she carried and nurtured
her child, labored and then gave birth. And now her child is gone,
taken from her. It doesn’t matter how.

The pain is the same no matter how her child died.
What matters is that her pain, expressed, is heard.
Hear it. Take it in until her wail becomes yours
and changes your heart. Hear it, so that each time

you decide to start a war, or take a life in war, or want
to take a life for any reason, you hear that heartbreaking
sound ululating in your ears and it stops you.

Listen. Can you hear the sound, rising and falling
like a wild wind wailing through city streets and
battlefields? Quiet, now. Listen carefully. Her wailing
calls, demanding our attention.

—Sapporo, 10 February, 2009

~  ~  ~

A poem from the day when facial hair on men was frowned upon.

They don’t allow no moustaches in Kalispell, Montana

There are 365
in my brother’s mustache—
one for each day of the
(on leap-year, he grows
an extra hair)—
& the man he went to
work for in Kalispell
to every one of them.

From what he said,
mountains could have
& forests burned up
& the man would
still have insisted
that he shave it off.
“That,” he said,
to my brother’s lip,
“has got to go!”

So, after having
driven all the way
from San Francisco,
& spent 35 minutes
on the job,
he quit, & he &
his wife packed up
their things & left.
They don’t allow no
moustaches in Kalispell,

(published in “River Bottom” in 1977)


About gwpj

Originally from Seattle, I now live in Sapporo, Japan, where I write, explore this city, read widely, and ask questions about things that i see as important. I'm also an author, with three novels published ("The Old Man and The Monkey", "Grandfather and The Raven", and "Bear: a story about a boy and his unusual dog"). For more information about my writing, drop by my website, at
This entry was posted in Humor, Poetry, Sorrow and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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