Where once a man


I got the call—“your father died, they bury him on Friday”


I think he thought I didn’t like him. There were some reasons.

Once he put his hand on my girlfriend’s thigh, said he knew she wanted “it”.

She told me without rancor, forgiving an old man.

I forgave him too. I’m not sure he knew that.

And there were other things, some harder to forgive, that we won’t speak of here.


It wasn’t true—I loved him. First for all the things he taught me:

Little things like how to calculate the distance to the stars

And big things too.


I went of course. I booked a flight and car, drove two hundred miles,

Got there just in time. The little church.

The doleful undertaker. Fifty people who had known him.

The unctuous preacher said some words.

They handed me his ashes in a box.


I saw something that day I won’t forget:

Among the people gathered there, and in myself,

A man-shaped hole

Where once a man had been.



Richard Hodges

© 2018