After a Long Absence


I visit my friend.   The wound
of his wife’s death   is closing—
he wills it to close—yet
he needs the gash to remain open,
if only the width of a paper cut.

He needs to heal but can’t
let the pain escape him
—this being that has grown

so close, that has held him
when no one else remembered,
that takes into its rigid fingers
all reason to live.

It’s been nearly a year, but
her face will not cease to wake him,
her voice will not fade to a hum.
He is condemned to live, to rise
on a November morning, his mouth
filled with the lilt of speech
from a woman’s mouth.


© Charles Fishman