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As Long as We Remember Him, He Will Never Die

by Wesley McNair


they said, which explained
why he ended up beside his wife
at the funeral home, not a presence
with a suit and wristwatch,

but a kind of feeling she had.
Others had it too,
so in the days after the funeral,
he would find himself

going down the thruway
in the back seat with his co-workers
from the car pool, or driving
out of the parking lot

at the supermarket, where
days after he was in the ground,
his neighbor swore she saw him.
Getting behind the wheel again

or sitting at breakfast
with his daughter as she recalled
how many sugars he used
in his coffee seemed

too good to be true, because
it wasn’t exactly, he being absent
as the space on the bed
his wife reached for,

drawing him to her in this way
that made him immaterial.
Besides, he wasn’t there
any longer than it took them

to return to the relentless
motion and change they lived for.
So after he came back
and discovered the counselor

handing his wife a box of tissues
while urging her to put
the past behind her
and move on, and after

he hovered in frustration
above the grandson who tried
to recall him from
the photograph in the album,

and after hearing the conversation
of a man asking whatever happened
to him, and another man
answering,“He’s dead,”

he was ready to die
his second death, as he did,
released piece by piece
from each memory until at last

he was gone to that place
where, like them, you and I also
would have been afraid
all that time to lose him,

beyond motion and recalling
and forgetting.

 

Wesley McNair received the 2003 Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry for his latest collection, Fire (Godine, 2002). Other recent publications are Mapping the Heart (Carnegie Mellon, 2003), essays about place and poetry, and The Maine Poets (Down East Books, 2003), an anthology of Maine’s poetry from Longfellow to the present. More of his work can be viewed at www.wesleymcnair.com. (4/2004)


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