Love and taxes, grief and loss. This can be a tough time of year. Read Laura Kasischke’s wonderful poem and put your personal concerns aside. Understand there are atomic stockpiles to pay for so get your taxes done.


That was the year in which
we had to pay
the tax on love, which

was grief, of course. Of
course, it was
more than we
could ever afford. They’d

heard that story before.

Don’t answer the phone.

But now we know:
If you don’t answer the phone,
they come to the door.

Our only deduction
was our only hope:
The expensive coat

she’d never worn. Not
once. Not a single
stroll along the lake.
Not one snowstorm.

But life went on
and would go on, and
there were atomic
stockpiles to pay for.
The schools
were failing.
The dogs
howled alongside
the coyotes every night.
For which, some personal
responsibility we bore.

But the days were
blinding, as
always, in April. All
that white paper. Such

light, like April. Like
the light that a child, lost
in a cathedral for weeks,
might finally need to eat.

The petals of the lilies
and the communion wafers
and the emptiness peeled
from the bottom
of the empty collection plate.

For instance, she died
with an eye
still open, and
in the pupil —

Yes, I hate to say it:

Of course.
In which a tiny agent
at a tiny desk
with a gleaming
pinprick for a pen

crunched her numbers,
pored over her forms.

by Laura Kasischke

When it comes to the certainty of death and taxes Benjamin Franklin was not the first to coin the phrase. It dates back to at least 1716 and Christopher Bullock who wrote “‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes,” The Cobler of Preston (1716).

Lucian Freud
The Painter’s Mother IV

Eric Gill
The Body of Jesus is Laid in the Tomb

Mother and Child on a Bench 1901
Artist:Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

Lee Krasner
Gothic Landscape

Uzo Egonu Woman in Grief 1968

Featured image: Barnett Freedman Illustrations for Walter de la Mare’s ‘Love’ 1942


  1. Gives ‘April is the cruellest month’ a whole new significance. 31 Jan is always the deadline for us freelancers in the UK to pay our taxes (with another wadge to come in July).

    You posted a wonderful, scabrous poem on Facebook – I saw it on J’s account. Might you put it up here? Don’t be shy…

    • Hi David – Tax time is tough whenever it is. However, I still hold to that quaint notion that paying taxes is (or rather should be) a privilege. And while that cruelest month thing is way overplayed Laura Kasischke makes a compelling case. As for the “poem” on Facebook. It actually has a preamble and has been updated slightly and will always be a work in progress. Check the latest post for the whole deal. It starts with an idle stroll in Innisfree Gardens. Thanks for the comment and thanks especially for the encouragement – J

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