At the Poet’s Last Reading – a poem by Anne Whitehouse

At the Poet's Last Reading

	In memory of Mark Strand

In his poems, the drama is elemental:
There was no pain. It had gone.
There were no secrets. There was nothing to say.
The shade scattered its ashes.
The body was yours, but you were not there.
The air shivered against its skin.
The dark leaned into its eyes.
But you were not there.

Those poems light as air
that used to want to fly away 
are now trapped between the covers
of a book three inches thick
and hundreds of pages.

Thoughtfully taking in 
its heft and size, 
the poet balanced the volume
in his open palm, allowing
himself the comment,
“Not bad for a life’s work.”

I was waiting for him to sign
the copy he was holding.
He didn’t notice me at all.
He was looking at the young man
ahead of me about to leave, 
as if he were willing 
some youthful part of himself
to plant its seed in him
and go forward into 
that new life. 

I remember
the moment so clearly,
as if I could actually observe
the flight of one soul
into another, and the youth,
radiating his own glow,
unsuspecting. 

The poet 
was lean as a razor,
his once-handsome features 
craggy as a rock face.
I thought “ill,” but not
“dying.” Yet in two months
he was dead. 

Anne Whitehouse is the author of six poetry collections Meteor Shower (2016) is her second collection from Dos Madres Press, following The Refrain in 2012. She is the author of a novel, Fall Love, as well as short stories, essays, features, and reviews. She was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, and lives in New York City. You can listen to her lecture, “Longfellow, Poe, and the Little Longfellow War” here.

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