Home > Poetry > As Long as We Remember Him, He Will Never Die
Published: Thu Apr 15 2004
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
As Long as We Remember Him, He Will Never Die

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.

See what's inside AGNI 59

Wesley McNair is the author of nine poetry collections. His most recent book is the memoir The Words I Chose (Carnegie Mellon, 2012). He has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright, and Guggenheim Foundations, and countless other honors, including the Robert Frost Prize; the Jane Kenyon Award for Outstanding Book of Poetry (for Fire); the Eunice Teitjens Prize from Poetry magazine; the Sarah Josepha Hale Medal (also awarded to Robert Frost, Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin, Robert Lowell, May Sarton, Arthur Miller, Richard Wilbur, et. al.) for his “distinguished contribution to the world of letters;” and two honorary doctoral degrees for literary distinction. McNair has served three times on the nominating jury for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac and National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition, his work has appeared in the Pushcart Prize Annual, two editions of The Best American Poetry, and over fifty anthologies and textbooks. Among the magazines that have published his work: AGNI, AGNI Online, The Atlantic Monthly, The Gettysburg Review, Poetry, The Southern Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. McNair recently retired from the University of Maine at Farmington, where he directed the creative writing program. He was recently selected for a United States Artist Fellowship as one of America’s “finest living artists.” (updated 10/2012)

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