W. D. Ehrhart  

"...the light that cannot fade..."

    Suzie, you picked a hell of a time
to teach me about mortality.
I was in North Carolina then,
talking tough, eating from cans,
wearing my helmet John Wayne style—
and you were suddenly dead:
a crushed skull on a pre-dawn road
just two weeks shy of college,
and me about to leave for Vietnam.

I wanted you and me alive;
I wanted out.
That night I cried till dawn.

Funny, how I managed to survive
that war, how the years have passed,
how I'm thirty-four and getting on,
and how your death
bestowed upon my life a permanence
I never would have had
if you had lived:

you'd have gone to college,
married some good man from Illinois,
and disappeared like all the other
friends I had back then who meant
so much and whom I haven't
thought about in years.

But as it is, I think of you
whenever dancers flow across a stage
or graceful gymnasts balance on the beam.
And every time I think of you,
you're young.
(for Carolyn Sue Brenner, 1948-1966)
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    Copyright © 1984 by W. D. Ehrhart
The Outer Banks, Adastra Press, 1984
This poem currently published in Beautiful Wreckage, New & Selected Poems, Adastra Press, 1999
Copyright © 2011 - W. D. Ehrhart - homepage
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