“Reading a Book of Poems by a Friend Newly Dead” by Philip Dacey

I think these words are still warm.
Bend close—there is a breath
coming from them. See
how the lines rise and fall, pulse,

how he is slow to leave these poems,
in which he has lived for many years.
In time he will turn them completely
over to us for safekeeping, but not yet.

I face this book as I often faced him.
He could be hiding behind it, wearing it
like a mask before he slips from the words
into the spaces between the lines

and then into the margins. Now this book
has a new life as a handshake, a long one,
so long it becomes instead a handclasp,
though the flesh is papery, dry.

And lines keep revealing themselves
to be a goodbye wave, each a rehearsal
more for our sake than his. It is not
his fault that we missed the gesture.

I am afraid to put this book down,
afraid to close it. I did not know
a book could be raw, skinned, as it were.
Afraid to touch it. Afraid not to.

–Philip Dacey
In Stoneboat, 5.1, fall 2014


Listen to the voice
of each dead poet
as if it were yours.
It is.
        –Philip Dacey
        From Mosquito Operas, 2010




Both poems found via Best American Poetry’s blog post: “Day 5: In Praise of Philip Dacey” by Lisa Vihos


3 thoughts on ““Reading a Book of Poems by a Friend Newly Dead” by Philip Dacey

  1. Will Grimes

    Not only poets but dogs, too, can give us goodbye waves. Wrenching. Dacey notes something in the howls of dogs in his poem: “Praiseful Mouths”.


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