“Guest of Honor” by Philip Dacey

Marc Chagall, “La Mariée” 1950.

Every day, I drive by the grave
of my fiancee’s father.
She lost him when she was one.
He’s our intimate stranger,
our guardian angel,
floating a la Chagall
just above our heads.
I go to him for love-lessons.
He touches my hand
with that tenderness
the dead have for the living.
When I touch her hand so,
she knows where I’ve been.
At the wedding,
he’ll give her away to me.
And the glass he’ll raise to toast us
will be a chalice brimful of sun,
his words heard all the more clearly
for their absence, as stone
is cut away to form dates.

“Guest of Honor,” by Philip Dacey


“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