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American Life in Poetry: ‘Nothing But Good’ by Sarah White

We’re taught to never speak ill of the dead. Well, then, what do we do? Perhaps we forgive. Here’s a lovely poem by Sarah White, who lives in New York. It’s from her book from Deerbrook Editions, “Wars Don’t Happen Anymore.”

Nothing But Good…

I will not speak ill of Jack Flick.

I will rarely look

at the scar he made on my cheek

one summer at the lake.

I won’t speak ill of Jack whose freckles

and gangly legs are gone.

So is the drained face I saw when he saw

what he’d done with a sharp rock

nonchalantly skipped.

I will speak well, for it was somewhat

sweet to lie on the dock while Jack

and his friends bent down

and wiped my face with a sandy towel.

I will speak well of them,

for most are gone

and the wound proved small.

I will speak well, for the rock

missed my eye. I can hardly find

the scar. Jack went into the air

corps, fought in one of the wars,

retired, and lived less than a year

before his tender heart gave out.

I will speak well of Jack.

Poem copyright 2015 by Sarah White from “Wars Don’t Happen Anymore” (Deerbrook Editions, 2015), and reprinted by permission of the author and publisher. American Life in Poetry is supported by the Poetry Foundation and the English department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. We do not accept unsolicited submissions.