Thursday, January 6, 2011

Today's poem by Wesley McNair

Waving Goodbye

Why, when we say goodbye
at the end of an evening, do we deny
we are saying it at all, as in We'll
be seeing you, or I'll call, or Stop in,
somebody's always at home? Meanwhile, our friends,
telling us the same things, go on disappearing
beyond the porch light into the space
which except for a moment here or there
is always between us, no matter what we do.
Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens
when the space gets too large
for words - a gesture so innocent
and lonely, it could make a person weep
for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown
voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel
patting and stroking the growing distance
between their nameless ship and the port
they are leaving, as if to promise I'll always
remember, and just as urgently, Always
remember me. Is it loneliness, too,
that makes the neighbor down the road lift
two fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes
day after day on his way to work in the hello
that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised
fingers do for him, locked in his masculine
purposes and speeding away inside the glass?
How can our waving wipe away the reflex
so deep in the woman next door to smile
and wave on her way into her house with the mail,
we'll never know if she is happy
or sad or lost? It can't. Yet in that moment
before she and all the others and we ourselves
turn back to our disparate lives, how
extraordinary it is that we make this small flag
with our hands to show the closeness we wish for
in spite of what pulls us apart again
and again: the porch light snapping off,
the car picking its way down the road through the dark.

Wesley McNair
from Lovers of the Lost
new & selected poems



  1. Thought-provoking Nan. I thought of travelers setting out for journies in the days before e-mail or even phones. I thought of how -- and why -- we have always waved or nodded or some way acknowledged our neighbors when we encounter them (even when speeding away) and how odd we think it is when people don't do that.

    And how in Texas, on all those long lonely roads, drivers acknowledge each other by lifting two fingers off the steering wheel in a short and quick wave; I know that is yearning for some human contact in all that empty space..

  2. Oh my gosh, this really resonates with me today. I am going to see my son today for a short visit. He lives a 7 hr drive from me so I don't get to see him much. I was already dreading the time when he drives away. This poem caught the lonliness I feel when he drives away. Sigh~~

  3. Lovely, a new poet for me.

  4. Sprite, Sallie, Lisa, and Carole, I am so very pleased you liked the poem, and wrote to me. I recently saw Wesley McNair on my local PBS station, and was so taken with him. He read several of his poems, and did a nice interview. He seemed so very kindly with a warm sense of humor. I bought Lovers of the Lost so there will be more poems by him on the blog!

  5. What an appropriate choice for this time of year when we are waving our relatives off, back to their homes.

    Have a Good New Year.

  6. Thank you for introducing me to a new poet. I love his words - now I shall make sure that I shall always wave to my neighbours as I or they pass by. Perhaps this will be the only human contact we have all day.

  7. Love this poem! I looked for his books at our library but they don't carry him. Definitely adding him to my wishlist.

  8. Thank you, SS. It really is such a wonderful poem, and a sentiment I've never read before.

    Katherine, it sure is!

    Anonymous, that is the power of good poetry, I think. It helps us see things in a different way.

    Kathie, this book is well worth buying.

  9. Oh ... he sounds like such a kind man.

  10. Colleen, when I saw him on tv, his kindness was very evident.

  11. Christy, isn't it just wonderful?!

  12. Lovely. I need to copy and print this one. Love it. Thanks, Nan.


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