March 25, 2014

Maryanne Hannan

TO MY HUSBAND, WHO 33 YEARS AGO DIED AT THE AGE OF 33

De mortuis, nihil nisi bonum
Of you dead, I’ve spoken nothing
but good, nodded at over-fond
family memories, the favored first
son who skipped school to sneak
into the new museum. I’ve let
strangers tell our girls how you fell
forty feet taking a leak, behind
the garage, at your graduation party,
never dropping your grilled chicken
leg. Such was not the nature
of the man-to-be, yet these dull shards
are now my own. What else of you
can I offer our daughters, raised
by another man? You are at our table
always—in the gap, the sainted lost
father, shrouded in respect, silence
the price we pay for life. Was it wrong
to let you slip into cliché, pallid
memory? But how could it have been
otherwise? You have been undoing now
as long as you lived. Even the ink in your
notebooks fades. Remember how you
used to read “Dover Beach” and we would
shudder with faux foreboding? Remember
our pleasure when Emily said she didn’t
know how the sun set? Neither did we
then, nor did we much care. But oh, now
to see it rise again, one ribbon at a time.

from Rattle #41, Fall 2013
Tribute to Single Parent Poets

[download audio]

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Maryanne Hannan: “‘I live on Earth at present/ … I am not a thing—a noun./ I seem to be a verb,’ wrote Buckminster Fuller. When a person no longer inhabits the earth, they do become nouns, able to be defined by anyone with a memory. When I became a single parent, I felt intensely the impossibility of keeping alive, for our daughters, the dynamism that was their father. Over the years, stories have ossified, including my own, but there is still verb, an underlying stream of energy, left in memory. This poem finally enabled me to grapple with some of that pain.” (website)

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