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Commencement 2020 Poem


By Lisa J. Sullivan, MFA ’16

Poetry Instructor at the Plymouth Center for the Arts, Poetry Editor for Pink Panther Magazine,
Associate Poetry Editor for Lily Poetry Review Books 

For the Graduating Class of 2020, Pine Manor College


Tassels traded for face masks.

Podium rests backstage, empty

lectern upon it. Graduates,

faculty, families—retreat

to their backyards, where even

in the heat, their breath

ghosts in the false dawn.


Isolation can do strange things:

Some vanish into themselves,

become dormant as winter branches.

Some take to the ocean bluffs,

sit so close to the edge, they

feel the spindrift mist their faces.

Some let their hair grow long.


We endure.


When uncertainty clings to us

like redwood bark, we recognize

the familiar: a darning needle stitching

Queen Anne’s lace, an airplane’s

contrail cutting a tangerine sky,

a loved one humming while cooking

jambalaya, a grandfather teaching

a grandson how to fish.


And closer still, that which

nothing can take away—a diploma

on the mantle, on the desk,

or nestled in the top dresser

drawer, reminding us again

and again, that winter branches

always bud.


They always bloom.


By Lisa J. Sullivan, © 2020