When he noticed four teenage kids from the Mission School
lugging boxes out of her house, he phoned her
— his neighbor just up the road — & she told him
that escrow had closed a week early: she’d be gone
by late afternoon. In that case, he said, he would come
right over to say goodbye. But she said no, don’t. Everything
was just too chaotic, too rushed. She was packing
the last of her things. Well, OK, then, he’d phone her, he said,
at the new place, the trailer court out in Spring Valley
near the hospital she had to be close to, & he would stop by
for tea once she had settled in. Oh, that would be lovely,
she said, & she thanked him for everything he & his lovely wife,
Mary, had done, for all of their kindness. She would miss them,
she said, & she needn’t tell him how much she would miss
this wonderful house up here in the backcountry hills.
You can well imagine, she added quietly, how hard it is going
to be when . . . & for a long moment they were both silent,
the man who himself was no longer young & the elderly
widow whose slender body was rapidly coming undone.
The last time he’d dropped by, she’d been gathering
all of her precious photos to send to her niece in Ohio.
Now the man stood in his own kitchen listening to Marion’s voice
on the phone & looking out at her small house on the hill
two hundred yards north of his own, the house that was suddenly
no longer hers. Then she thanked him again, & fumbling slightly
for words they said their final goodbyes, with the awkward reticence
of friends who understand they might well never see each other again.

This poem first appeared in San Diego Annual.

— Ed.