The Merchant of Grief

He does not do so willingly nor does he set the price,
His are meager things to collect,
things which others would neglect. He cannot say
if it’s by choice,
to him it filled a loneliness,
if not his voice.

This is what he has to do to survive, sell
grief word by word. For words came easy
and sorrow is everywhere
and always there to find.

Do not scorn him. Though it might seem reprehensible
to profit in this way, a grim task,
insensitive, to plunder from the grave,
this is all he has to save,
the cast-off day,
the litter of

For it’s grief that’s in ample supply,
not art, not beauty, but grief,
so grief is what he prizes.
And silence is his shelter,
where he dwells and keeps
this fortune of misfortunes
and writes alone.

—Walter Holland

Walter Holland is the author of three books of poetry, A Journal of the Plague Years: Poems 1979-1992, Transatlantic, and Circuit, as well as one novel, The March. A forthcoming book of poems, Reconstruction, will be published by Finishing Line Press in August of 2021. His most recent work has appeared in Exquisite Pandemic, HIV Here and Now, Cutbank Literary Journal, and About Place Journal. Follow him at: