Poetry

What Was That Poem?

My mother asked me, What was that poem?
It was Longfellow’s “My Lost Youth,” I think.
The answer was Longfellow, often enough,
even though she never liked Evangeline.

I talked to my mother on my cellphone
outside a grocery store in Philadelphia.
She asked me what I was buying, Was it dear?,
and if I now liked football more than baseball.

It was the last conversation I ever had with her.
I told her I liked baseball, to make her happy.
I knew she wasn’t calling to talk sports.
She was showing off, saying, “I’m going to be okay!”

What was that poem? she’d say and act surprised
when I didn’t know. It wasn’t about the answer.
It was about noticing something held on to,
with wit and ferocity, until the day is done.

This appeared in the November 2011 issue.

David McGimpsey just published Asbestos Heights, a collection.