Poems about Loss

Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros

‘Abuelito Who’ by Sandra Cisneros is a powerful poem about the importance of family. The poem conveys the ways that illness and change within the family dynamic can have on a child.

Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros Visual Representation

Patterns by Amy Lowell

‘Patterns’ by Amy Lowell is an unforgettable poem about a woman’s loss during World War I. It describes the “patterns” of a speaker’s life and how, with the knowledge that her fiancé has died in the War, she’s doing to be confined to a far more sorrowful one. 

Patterns by Amy Lowell Visual Representation

Immigrant Blues by Li-Young Lee

How does it feel when the body and the soul are not in conjunction? Read Li-Young Lee’s meditative piece ‘Immigrant Blues’ to understand what it really feels like.

Immigrant Blues by Li-Young Lee Visual Representation

Old Timers by Carl Sandburg

‘Old Timers’ by Carl Sandburg speaks on the nature of war. Sandburg alludes to the ways in which history repeats itself no matter which country or time period one is in. 

Old Timers by Carl Sandburg Visual Representation

The Hill by Edgar Lee Masters

‘The Hill’ by Edgar Lee Masters describes the lives and deaths of some of the residents of Spoon River—the community that features in much of his verse.

The Hill by Edgar Lee Masters Visual Representation

Ten Little Soldiers (And Then There Were None)

‘Ten Little Soldiers’ was included in Agatha Christie’s classic mystery novel, ‘And Then There Were None.’ It iserves as an epigraph, appearing at the beginning of the book, and is connected with all ten deaths that occur on the island. It is unclear who wrote the first version of this nursery rhyme.

Ten Little Soldier Boys Visual Representation

Waiting at the Door (Dog Poem)

‘Waiting at the Door’ is a poem told from the perspective of a loving dog addressing its still living owner. The dog reassures the owner that they will be together again in the future. 

Waiting at the Door Visual Representation

A Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay

‘A Dirge Without Music’ by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a beautiful dirge. The poet uses clear and lyrical language to describe how lovers and thinkers alike go into the darkness of death with a little remaining.

A Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay Visual Representation

Sine Qua Non by A.E. Stallings

‘Sine Qua Non’ by A.E. Stallings is a thoughtful depiction of what “absence” and “nothing” feel like. The poem is specifically concerned with one speaker’s father. 

Sine Qua Non by A.E. Stallings Visual Representation

The Orchard by Robert A. Ayres

Robert A. Ayres’s ‘The Orchard’ depicts a desolate garden that the speaker visited in the past. This image-rich poem explores the theme of the transience of life.

The Orchard by Robert A. Ayres Visual Representation

The Bustle in a House by Emily Dickinson

‘The Bustle in a House’ by Emily Dickinson is a short poem about the effects of death. It describes the “bustle” in a home the morning after an important loss.

The Bustle in a House by Emily Dickinson Visual Representation

Boots by Rudyard Kipling

‘Boots’ by Rudyard Kipling is a memorable poem. In it, Kipling uses repetition to emphasize the struggle of soldiers on a forced march. 

Boots by Rudyard Kipling

Bill’s Story by Mark Doty

Mark Doty’s ‘Bill’s Story’ appears in his best-known poetry collection My Alexandria (1993). This poem is about the death of a speaker’s sister suffering from dementia and AIDS.

Bill's Story by Mark Doty Visual Representation

Triolet by Robert Bridges

‘Triolet’ by Robert Bridges is a short love poem that takes a specific poetic form. It acknowledges that love is a painful experience and personifies the force as a “hard master.” 

Triolet by Robert Bridges Visual Representation

The Meeting by Katherine Mansfield

‘The Meeting’ by Katherine Mansfield is a short and image-rich poem that depicts a speaker’s reaction to a permanent separation from her lover. 

The Meeting by Katherine Mansfield Visual Representation

One Girl by Sappho

‘One Girl’ by Sappho is a beautiful and moving poem. In the two short stanzas, readers can explore imagery Sappho relates to marriage and the loss of freedom for a young woman. 

One Girl by Sappho Visual Representation

Separation by W. S. Merwin

‘Separation’ by W. S. Merwin is about what it feels like to be absent from someone you love. The poem uses a clever simile to depict these emotions. 

Separation by W. S. Merwin Visual Representation

Jesus! thy Crucifix by Emily Dickinson

‘Jesus! thy Crucifix’ by Emily Dickinson is a short poem in the form of a prayer to Jesus. Th speaker wants to make sure he remembers that humanity suffers on earth.

jesus! thy crucifix by emily dickinson

Men at Forty by Donald Justice

‘Men at Forty’ by Donald Justice is a moving poem about aging and fatherhood. The speaker is describing what it’s like for all men when they reach forty and consider their pasts and presents.

Men at Forty by Donald Justice

Bag of Mice by Nick Flynn

‘Bag of Mice’ by Nick Flynn is a powerful poem that describes a speaker’s dream and a listener’s suicide note.

Bag of Mice by Nick Flynn Visual Representation

The Starry Night by Anne Sexton

‘The Starry Night’ by Anne Sexton is an ekphrastic that explores Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. It delves into the emotions that a speaker interprets in the painted elements.

The Starry Night by Van Gogh Art

The Tantrum by A.E. Stallings

‘The Tantrum’ by A.E. Stallings is an compelling poem about loss. The speaker describes what a specific listener did when they saw their mother’s newly cut hair.

Hot Combs by Natasha Trethewey Visual Representation

Sonnet 117 by William Shakespeare

‘Sonnet 117,’ also known as ‘Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all,’ is a poem that delves into the complexities of relationships. The poet’s speaker emphasizes everything he’s done wrong and makes use his beloved understands them all.

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry, straight to your inbox

Start Your Perfect Poetry Journey

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox