Jan Haag teaches journalism and creative writing at Sacramento City College where she is the chair of the journalism department and advises student publications. She is the author of Companion Spirit, a collection of poems about her husband’s death at the age of 48, published by Amherst Writers & Artists Press. She leads writing groups in Sacramento where the topic of grief and loss often arises. Read more of her beautiful writing here.

(for Lauren)

Every year on his death day I send an email
to his old address: troutbum@ …
at what? This year it has disappeared
like his voice, his touch, his scent on two flannel shirts
hanging shoulderless in my closet.

One year, it took the email almost a week
to bounce back. Undeliverable, it said.
But for six days I hoped.

I offer mundane news: the classes I’m teaching,
the garage’s new paint job (the same sissy pink),
the niece who lives here now, in college
at our alma mater down the road—
things I might write to someone who lives far away,
bringing him up to date on the every day, the new normal.

I never write, I miss you
or I can’t believe it’s been so long
or That last image of you dead in your chair
is still with me.

This year, from the niece’s room, I hear him laugh.
My feet bounce me kangaroo-like to her door: Is that uncle?
She points to her laptop screen.
Mom had some of the old videos put on DVD.
Do you want to watch?

I sink, feel the hard plastic of her desk chair cradle me,
riveted as if by the first talkie. There he is upright,
hair more salt than pepper, smiling, striding
across the deck outside, the one he built
with his brother the first summer we lived
here, the summer the niece was born.
How like him to say little, toss a rueful grin,
push the niece in the baby swing with one hand,
salute the camera with his homemade beer.

So graceful for such a tall man.

I have moved on, yes. I have a newer car,
different cats, good love.

Now drops away; the past becomes present
as I wait for proof — the tiniest glimpse of him alive,
a snippet of that voice again. Again.


Jan's calico cat Wally on her back deck

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