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American Life in Poetry

Perhaps there’s a kind of afterlife that is made up of our memories of a departed person, especially as these cling to that person’s belongings. Bruce Snider, who lives and teaches in California, suggests that here.


I wake to leafless vines and muddy fields,

patches of standing water. His pocketknife

waits in my dresser drawer, still able to gut fish.

I pick up his green shirt, put it on for the fourth day

in a row. Outside, the rusty nail he hammered

catches me, leaves its stain on everything.

The temperature drops, the whole shore

filling with him: his dented chew can, waders,

the cattails kinked, bowing their distress.

At the pier, I use his old pliers to ready the line:

fatheads, darters, a blood worm jig. Today, the lake’s

one truth is hardness. When the trout bite,

I pull the serviceable things glistening into air.

Poem copyright 2012 by Bruce Snider from “Paradise, Indiana” (Pleiades Press, 2012) and reprinted by permission of the author and the publisher. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.