by Margaret Gibson
What little I know, I hold closer,
more dear, especially now
that I take the daily
reinvention of loss as my teacher.
I will never graduate from this college,
whose M.A. translates
“Master of Absence,”
with a subtext in the imperative:
If there’s anything I want, it’s that more
people I love join the search party.
You were once renowned
among friends for your luck
in retrieving from the wayside
the perfect bowl for the kitchen,
or a hand carved deer, a pencil drawn
portrait of a young girl
whose brimming innocence
still makes me ache. Now
the daily litany of common losses
goes like this: Do you have
your wallet, keys, glasses, gloves,
giraffe? Oh dear, I forgot
my giraffe—that’s the preferred
response, but no: it’s usually
the glasses, the gloves, the wallet.
The keys I’ve hidden.
I’ve signed you up for “safe return”
with a medallion (like a diploma)
on a chain about your neck.
Okay, today, this writing,
I’m amused by the art of losing.
I bow to Elizabeth Bishop, I try
“losing faster”—but when I get
frantic, when I’ve lost
my composure, my nerve, my patience,
my compassion, I have only
what little I know
to save me. Here’s what I know:
it’s not absence I fear, but anonymity.
I remember taking a deep breath,
stopped in my tracks. I’d been
looking for an important document
I had myself misplaced;
high and low, no luck yet.
I was “beside myself,”
so there may have indeed been
my double running the search party.
“Stop,” you said gently. “I’ll go
get Margaret. She’ll know where it is.”
“But I’m Margaret,” I wailed.
“No, no.” You held out before me
a copy of one of my books,
pointing to the author’s photograph,
someone serious and composed.
“You know her. Margaret
Gibson, the poet.” We looked
into each others’ eyes a long time.
The earth tilted on its axis,
and what we were looking for,
each other and ourselves,
took the tilt, and we slid into each others’ arms,
holding on for dear life, holding on.