He spoke four words just before he died
heard by the nurse whose shift was ending
and who in those last days attended
the disease he sought no help to cure.
She heard him speak, but as she explained
to those eager to find a final meaning
in what had been said, she spoke
no German and did not understand.

The Father leaves and never tells us where
a final comfort lies, though he must know
if only by his blessing and goodbye.
We live ensnared by what can’t be retrieved
or known, or kept, or made a refuge of,
and nothing’s certain save what is departed.


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 22 Number 7, on page 40
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