2022 Poetry Ourselves: “Concrete” by Mario Grugan

A companion to Poetry Out Loud, the Poetry Ourselves competition gives students the opportunity to submit original poetry. The 2022 competition was open to Poetry Out Loud state and jurisdictional champions.

Mario Grugan, Pennsylvania’s 2022 Poetry Out Loud Champion, is the 2022 Poetry Ourselves written poetry runner-up for the poem “Concrete.” 


        Wir haben dem getötet 1

A memory:

A senseless ransom paid
Like an alchemist turning gold to dirt.

That's what memories are.
A recession of life, like blood changing to mercury.

I have no memories of my father,
None of his life.
Only fabrications.

But my life has become a living memory constructed from his death.
From his absence.
That is how we all exist.
Like hollow vessels being filled with concrete.
Solidified into our religious, moral selves.
Unaware of our synthetic foundations.

When did his breath
Become air?

When did his hair
Fall off into the earth?

When did his mirth
Rejoin the laughing beasts below?

Was it gradual or all at once?
Did his decomposition begin when his heart stopped?
Or was it a gradual process as he transformed the flora around his body into thriving foliage?

In my memory he is still mirthful.
In my memory his head of hair flows like a river.
In my memory he still breathes.

But what use are these lies?
What use are these stories I was told of a stranger?
Can he live on in these stories?


He is dead.
Regardless of memory.
Regardless of thought.

He is dead.

He remains dead.
And I have killed him. 2

No pictures with him on my first day of school.
No catch in the park on a spring afternoon.
No one to fill the empty seat of his recliner.

He remains dead.

And memory?
Memory ebbs.
Memory dies.
And with it, the pain ebbs.

When memory goes, so does his absence.
And when I go, my memories will follow.

1. This German line saying “We have killed him” originates in the ‘Parable of the Madman,’ by philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche. He outlines his famous indictment of the Age of Enlightenment arguing that ‘pure reason’ has done away with the West’s foundations of symbols and myths harkening in an age of postmodern chaos. [Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887)
para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]

2. This is an adaptation of Nietzsche’s words, “God is dead, God remains dead and we have killed him.” In this adaptation, the words are changed to “he” referring to my father (in a sense, the creator of myself and therefore a god) and “I” referring to myself. [Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.]