Community Feedback: Elegy for a Mother Who Died Alone by Louisa Muniz


Community Feedback is our recurring column that provides an opportunity for our audience to get some quick, free & exceptional feedback on a new poem. 

It works like this: we give the prompt and the link to our open submittable category.

The category closes in two weeks, and afterwards our editorial staff selects a poem to critique and comment on.

We publish the poem and the comments a month after the original post, and repeat the process. The window for next month’s poem will close in two weeks.


Submit your poem here.


This month, we chose Louisa Muniz’s poem, “Elegy For A Mother Who Died Alone.” Thank you to all of our submitters.

Elegy For A Mother Who Died Alone

Even the sun
turned blackened fireball
the day I found you.

Your face ash colored
bleached out the world
in the shadow of light.

Even Antares—
giant red star
dimmed the night sky.

Through the window
sparrows fluttered past the lawn
gathering twigs, moss & feathers

for their nests while I circled
the house of grief in a grave
of shallow breath.

You who I carried
in the muscle of my mouth
should know:

morning breaks in empty hands.
I spit seeds of sadness
into a crestfallen sky & demand

Mother, where are you?
If between the ocean’s abyss
& bone broken earth

reach this way.
Come find me.
There is so much

I need to tell you.


This is a wonderful stanza, the highlight for me:

“You   who I carried
in the muscle of my mouth
should know:”

The gentle iambic quality of its rhythm is enhanced with the punctuation, the white space—it’s a joy to read out loud. And the image, the daughter carrying her mother in “muscle” of her mouth exhilarates the imagination, exhilarates the reader’s body.

If I were reading this poem for publication, this stanza would be my focus. The three lines crystallize Muniz’s strengths: creating joy through sound and subtle grammar, reaching forcefully into the reader’s body and activating it, and an authentic, vulnerable exploration of grief.


Creating Joy Through Sound and Subtle Grammar

You see these come up again and again in the poem. The fourth and fifth stanzas are the longest grammatical unit in the piece, and they roll across the tongue . When “feathers” finally finds its rhyme with “breath”, after shyly nudging up against “nests”, we sigh internally with pleasure.

The later rhymes of “hands” and “demand”, “sadness” and “abyss”, in the seventh and eighth stanzas confirms sounds’ importance for the poem and for the reader’s experience.

I’d recommend to the poet to lean into this urge for sound play—to explore the realm of rhythm and rhyme more deliberately and carefully. The organic nature of the rhymes suggests an authenticity in the author’s heart, an honest desire to sing. Sing more, learn all the different ways singing can happen, invent new ways. Sound and song is a strength suggested here that can be enhanced and proven further.


Reaching Forcefully into the Reader’s Body

The poem also presents an interesting dynamic in it’s imagery:

Look closely at the imagery of the first third of the poem: “blackened fireball”, “face ash colored”, “shadow of light”, “giant red star.”

And the imagery of the middle third: “muscle of my mouth”, “empty hands”, “spit seeds”.

Then the final third: “crestfallen sky”, “ocean’s abyss”, “bone broken earth”.

Quick note: be careful of all the pronoun language at the front and end of a poem. Pronouns are hard to make do good work, as a general rule.

The movement from the celestial, to the body, to the earth doesn’t quite reach a fluid and organic thread. The space between these sets of images is jarring, and it doesn’t seem convincing to say that jarring quality was necessarily purposeful.

The most effective set of images, the ones who did the most work to me as I was reading, were the middle third, the images that activated my body directly. And I think the poem would be served to include more of such strong, convincing imagery.

In fact, here’s my biggest suggestion: cut the first three stanzas altogether. The fireball, the ash, the red star and dimmed sky do not lead me to the “muscle of my mouth”—however, the empty hands do lead me to the “bone broken earth” later on.


Vulnerable Exploration of Grief

The final two stanzas are the most vulnerable moment of the poem. For that alone, they should stay. The lines endear with their simple call for a lost one.

But the phrasing doesn’t hold enough weight to do justice to the end of this poem, to the grief. There are many routes to make it do so: end with a beautiful sound, end with a fresh image—even, this poem might end with a direct display of dialogue:

Come find me,
I say to my hands,
There is so much
I need to tell you.

There’s room to play here, a lot of potential to use the skills of song and image that were displayed in earlier stanzas. The grief is true, that much is clear. For that, the courage to get it on the page, I’m very grateful to Muniz for sharing this work with us.


Thank you, Louisa, for sharing this wonderful poem with us. I sincerely hope this feedback helps you!


Feedback written by Josh Roark, our Editor.

Louisa Muniz is a reading/writing tutor. She lives in Sayreville, N.J. with her husband & son. She holds a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction from Kean University. Her work has been published in Rose Red Review, Tinderbox Journal, Snapdragon Journal, Words Dance, Menacing Hedge, Poetry Quarterly & is forthcoming in PANK Magazine.