Posts Tagged ‘absence’

It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
—Linda Gregg, “The Presence in Absence”

I have no phone receiver to connect me to the other side,
but every day I speak to my beloveds through candle flame.
Every night, I speak to them through the dark before sleep.
I speak to them in the car when I am alone.
I speak to them when I walk beneath stars,
when I walk in the woods, when I walk in the rain.
It is possible to be with someone who is gone.
It is possible to feel what cannot be seen,
to sense what cannot be heard,
to be held by what cannot be touched.
It is possible for love to grow after death.
If there is a secret, it is, perhaps, openness.
The way air lets light move through.
The way a window invites in the scent of grass.
The way sand receives the ocean,
then, rearranged, lets it pass.

This poem was published in ONE ART: A Journal of Poetry on 9/11/22

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Two Truths

after Ruth Stone, “Train Ride”

He is dead. Never again
to pull on the fencing mask,
moonwalk to his bedroom
or snuggle on the couch.
Not dancing on the stage.
He is dead. Not spinning
the gator through the field.
Not graphing equations for fun.
Is he dead? asks the heart.
No, he lives on forever.
In the scent of lemon.
In the cloudy ice on the pond.
In the buds of the lilac tree.
In the song on my breath. He lives
in blue sky and comet and field.
He lives in ink and in spaces between.
He is dead.
I held his body in my arms.
Since that day, he has never left me.
He is alive forever.

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I want to listen to your absence
the way I listen to the night—
the way the dark somehow
invites a deeper listening.
I want to hear, for instance,
the way silence fills in
where your voice has been,
or the way the room seems to know itself
by the pound of missing footsteps,
and in this way, I find you
where I cannot find you.
I am thinking of how the night opens up
between the calls of the owl
and how I listen in that interval
not only with my ears, but with my skin.
I want to listen for you with my lungs—
as if every breath is attentive
to the syllables of grief, of love.
I want my heart to angle in
to hear what the silence has to say.
I don’t want to hear what I most want to hear—
I want to hear what is really here.
I want to listen and learn from the listening.
I want to hear what is true.
I want to listen into your absence
and lean into it the way I lean into the night—
something so much larger than me,
something familiar and always new,
something so present, yet unable to be touched.
Something I am still learning to love.


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It was the orange juice aisle that did it.
I stood there staring at cartons
I knew I wouldn’t buy because you
are gone. My son, I stumble on you
everywhere you are not. Which is everywhere.
The only way to learn how to meet
your absence is by meeting it.
In the car. At the table. In the yard.
On the phone. At the school.
And there in the orange juice aisle
where I stared at the cartons on the shelf
then walked on, the cart still empty.

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One Trick



seeing them on the branch

the bright yellow tanagers

gone until summer

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When the cat ran away,

I noticed how she did not move

between the legs of the chairs,

how she did not yowl by her bowl

nor sit in the window. Everything

I saw was where she was not.

All day, I held it close,

her absence. All day,

I thought how she was not here.

Was it true?


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Eating Dinner with



What gave numbers their power was the very act of naming them and writing them down.

            —Amir Aczel, “The Origin of the Number Zero,” Smithsonian Magazine, December, 2014



Imagine, says my friend, before 700

there was no zero, which means

before that there was no concept

of nothing. In my bowl,

there is only a bit of squash soup left.

I add some salt, take a small bite.

There is less. I remember reading

that numbers exist outside

the human mind. Not like

a John Deere tractor that’s invented.

Not like a sonata that’s composed.

I take another bite of soup.

it is warm and tastes of apple

and thyme. I try to imagine it,

not knowing of nothing.

What would I have said

was in my bowl now that

the soup is gone? What

would I have thought

was in the chair beside me

here where you are not?

How would it change this

all that is, not comprehending

this all that is not?

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For an hour and a half, my son and I

create emptiness. All those places

where there was snow

on the drive and the walk,

we shovel them until there’s a long,

sinewy swath of absence.

It is deeply satisfying,

this moving of matter

from one place to another,

creating a path, a way.

When we are done, we lean

on our shovels and revel

in what is missing. We high five

and smile and feel as if we’ve really

accomplished something together.

How oddly full I feel

after this effort of emptying.

How many paths in me

are waiting to be exposed?

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tall and clear

wholly illumined by sun

slowly I learn to see

the vase as lovely

even without the sunflowers

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When October Goes

And now we come to the part of autumn
which is more fell than falling.

It’s hard to not miss the gold,
just as it’s hard to not miss the lips

of your lover when he’s gone.
You tell yourself that absence

makes the heart grow. Your self
is not impressed. You tell yourself

that the absence
is beautiful. But absence today is

absence—an inability to be present,
and your thoughts are anywhere

but here—in fact, they have gone to one
specific anywhere where it’s still

gold and warm and the heart
is so full it can’t hear a word anyone says

in an attempt to warn it
about how things change.

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