“I’d like, please, to leave on your sill just one cold flower whose beauty would leave you inconsolable all day” – Jon Anderson
In hindsight what you longed for
seems part of some canon,
items on a list everyone
was supposed to have wanted.
Or like a scene from a silent movie
screened in a noisy bar
crowded with people younger than you
intent on something you don’t remember
the particulars of. It is as if
that disease of longing
was judged incurable
by the medical panel at the Institute,
then the doctors all died
while all the test patients outlived them
by ten or twenty years.
You don’t mind.
For gradually, at around fifty maybe,
when your narcissistic worry
morphed into a narcissistic
awareness of death,
there came the sense that something
had already passed, without passing
in sight. Like a train
the sound of which on still nights
conjures the whole of travel, the
speed and freight danger along tracks,
through the shoddy woods and through the bad
parts of town, closed factories with
shattered window glass, a here
and an elsewhere, and no matter
which is which.
Richard Terrill, a former student and instructor at UW-Eau Claire, is the author of two collections of poems and two books of creative nonfiction. He is also the winner of the Minnesota Book Award and the Associated Writing Programs Award for nonfiction. The poem above first appeared in Hanging Loose 110, reprinted with permission from the author. More by Richard Terrill here.