Nearly a Valediction Poem

Nearly a Valediction Poem

You happened to me. I was happened to
like an abandoned building by a bulldozer, like the van that missed my skull
happened a two-inch gash across my chin.
You went as deep down as I’d ever been.
You were inside me like my pulse. A newborn flailing toward maternal heartbeat through

the shock of cold and glare: when you were gone,
swaddled in strange air, I was that alone
again, inventing life left after you.
I don’t want to remember you as that
four-o’clock-in-the-morning eight months long
after you happened to me like a wrong
number at midnight that blew up the phone
bill to an astronomical unknown
quantity in foreign currency.
The dollar’s dived since you happened to me.
You’ve grown into your skin since then; you’ve

grown
into the space you measure with someone
you can love back without a caveat.
While I love somebody I learn to live
with through the downpulled winter days’ routine
wakings and sleepings, half-and-half caffeineassisted mornings, laundry, stockpots, dust
balls in the hallway, lists instead of lust
sometimes, instead of longing, trust
that what comes next comes after what came
first.

She’ll never be a story I make up.
You were the one I didn’t know where to stop.
If I had blamed you, now I could forgive
you, but what made my cold hand, back in proximity to your hair, your mouth, your mind,

want where it no way ought to be, defined
by where it was, and was and was until
the whole globed swelling liquefied and spilled
through one cheek’s nap, a syllable, a tear,
wasn’t blame, whatever I wished it were.
You were the weather in my neighborhood.
You were the epic in the episode.
You were the year poised on the equinox.

Marilyn Hacker
from Winter Numbers

Nearly a Valediction Poem

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