now she’s gone my teacher wants to know 
where the speaker enters the poem

the wind blows open the screen door & it catches 
on its chain. outback my neighbors are smoking

a pig to make it last. my teacher only became 
my teacher after she passed. before that

she was a woman who had lived a long time.
as always i am an ungrateful child, a student 

first of ingratitude. ungracious as a wasp. a knot
in a history of rope your hands don’t notice 

as you hold on for dear life. dear life, the speaker 
is the chain holding the door closed & the wind 

is my teacher, the smoke curing meat,
my teacher had stories about all the dead poets

which made her, while living, prophetic. proximity
is next to godliness. for a woman who had no use 

for music or pleasure her writing beats the page 
until knuckles singe. my speaker wants to know 

when the teacher enters the poem, if she ever leaves,
if she’s always there in the text shaking her heads 
cutting the weeds.


Copyright © 2023 by Sam Sax. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Three of my poetry teachers died over the past several years, two during the pandemic. While living, they were this connective tissue to a whole history of letters, a bridge between their students and their teachers before them, and their teachers before them, and so on and so on. One remarked to me, while living, that, after his teacher died, he felt abandoned at the edge of a page, slowly arranging letters, an empty space stretching out before him. When a teacher dies, a whole library is destroyed, and then, if we’re lucky, we inherit a piece of those libraries. I don’t know how to say it other than that.”
Sam Sax