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Published: Tue Apr 15 2003
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
If You Had Come

If you had come into that room
after her stroke to find
my mother-in-law Sue Reed
and me, our heads bent
toward each other, making faces

so her face would remember
what it had forgot
of the expressions for surprise
and dismay, or if
you had come in the moment

when I tried to teach her lips
by forming small lips
and making them breathe,
first to the left, then
to the right of my nose

until she began to laugh,
and laugh because she couldn’t
on one side, and both
of us laughed, you might
have imagined what we did

had less to do with instruction
or sorrow than the antics
of lovers, she giving me
her hand then, I taking it
in mine to stroke it

over and over in the pleasure
of being together in the room
where you might have come
to imagine the two of us
together, just as we were.

See what's inside AGNI 57

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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