University of Southern Indiana

"Professor Marva Stewart’s Funeral Service at Gilbert-Lambuth Chapel, Paine College"

by Kamilah Aisha Moon

The spire pierces a heaven
so blue, the clouds so white.
It’s a beautiful day to say
goodbye. She was a spine

of this place—how will it stand
now? How we slouch forever
into silence one day, just like that.
The smell of coffee, a wedge
of orange bursting across
the tongue, then gone
before dinner. The grieving

all favor in our own clothes.
July’s humid air clings
as it always has, blurring
the difference between sweat
& tears. A visitor recognized
by only a few, I used to live here.

So did she—this was her home,
her everything. Thankful,
she didn’t call it burden—
she named it Grace. Astonishing
how caskets make everything
clear—a clarity (have mercy)
that doesn’t last too long,
allowing us to move on.

Marva Stewart was a selfless, committed professor and woman. She was a pillar of the college for decades, yet also unseen in some ways—as people who don’t lead with ego often are. I was struck by her service that started and ended on time; by what was shared and what wasn’t in the remembrances. The efficiency with which it was conducted, her casket wheeled down an aisle she walked countless times for the final time. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to tell her how much I appreciated her support and guidance. I hope that she felt loved, receiving flowers while she was able to smell and enjoy them. Attending and signing my name in a book didn’t feel sufficient. As poets, we are emotional historians; this poem began to arrive on the road back from the funeral, a record of a faithful servant that made a difference in so many lives.

Kamilah Aisha Moon is the author of Starshine & Clay, a CLMP Firecracker Award finalist featured on NPR’s All Things Considered as a collection that captures America in poetry, and She Has a Name, a finalist for both the Audre Lorde and Lambda Literary Awards. Moon’s work has been published widely, including in Best American Poetry, Harvard Review, Poem-A-Day, PBS NewshourBuzzfeed, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize winner and 2015 New American Poet who has received fellowships to MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center, and Hedgebrook, she holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is an assistant professor of creative writing at Agnes Scott College.

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