Absences | Poem by Mark Vinz

Bill Holm was a Minnesota poet and essayist and a dear friend to many of us who live and write in flyover country. He is much missed. Mark Vinz has written this fine tribute to Bill.

Absences


“Even when you are not in a room,

you are in it, your voice everywhere.” –Bill Holm


The message that’s recorded on the phone

is unmistakably bad news, and then

another call tells us it’s one we love—

a sudden death while traveling, somehow

appropriate for one who always

seized life too completely to stand still.

A door slams shut, a wall has dropped away,

and once again I’m driven back to

empty pages, insufficient words,

to rooms he always filled on entering—

rooms lined with books, piano music, and

good friends who raise their glasses one last time.


And now, as all the lights are blinking off

in every prairie town we’ve ever loved,

when all the toasts are made and songs are sung,

when leaving is the only certainty,

a single voice keeps echoing, along

each dark, untraveled hallway of the heart.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Mark Vinz, whose most recent book of poems is The Work Is All, Red Dragonfly Press, 2010. Poem reprinted from the South Dakota Review, Vol. 48, no. 3, Fall 2010, by permission of Mark Vinz and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.