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About this Poem 

“This poem was written out of great sadness, about the sudden and inexplicable loss, though not the literal death, of a friend—my oldest friend, a friend since childhood. It’s a common trope to address a poem to someone we know won’t read it—someone who has actually died, a former lover, even a lost object. The act of putting our losses into words and letting the world eavesdrop seems some sort of consolation, or at least an acknowledgement that we all suffer such losses. Here, the most painful element is the very mystery of this disconnection, which for me gives Pound’s poignant late-in-life lament such particular resonance.”
—Lloyd Schwartz

To My Oldest Friend, Whose Silence Is Like a Death

Lloyd Schwartz, 1941

In today’s paper, a story about our high school drama
teacher evicted from his Carnegie Hall rooftop apartment 

made me ache to call you—the only person I know 
who’d still remember his talent, his good looks, his self-

absorption. We’d laugh (at what haven’t we laughed?), then 
not laugh, wondering what became of him. But I can’t call, 

because I don’t know what became of you.

—After sixty years, with no explanation, you’re suddenly
not there. Gone. Phone disconnected. I was afraid

you might be dead. But you’re not dead. 

You’ve left, your landlord says. He has your new unlisted 
number but insists on “respecting your privacy.” I located 

your oldest son, who refuses to tell me anything except that 
you’re alive and not ill. Your ex-wife ignores my letters.

What’s happened? Are you in trouble? Something 
you’ve done? Something I’ve done? 

We used to tell each other everything: our automatic 
reference points to childhood pranks, secret codes, 

and sexual experiments. How many decades since we started 
singing each other “Happy Birthday” every birthday? 

(Your last uninhibited rendition is still on my voice mail.)

How often have we exchanged our mutual gratitude—the easy
unthinking kindnesses of long friendship. 

This mysterious silence isn’t kind. It keeps me 
up at night, bewildered, at some “stage “of grief. 

Would your actual death be easier to bear? 

I crave your laugh, your quirky takes, your latest
comedy of errors. “When one’s friends hate each other,”

Pound wrote near the end of his life, “how can there be
peace in the world?” We loved each other. Why why why 

am I dead to you? 

Our birthdays are looming. The older I get, the less and less 
I understand this world, 

and the people in it. 

Copyright © 2014 by Lloyd Schwartz. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 27, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2014 by Lloyd Schwartz. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 27, 2014. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Lloyd Schwartz

Lloyd Schwartz

Lloyd Schwartz was born on November 29, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York.

by this poet

poem
                        1 

Every October it becomes important, no, necessary
to see the leaves turning, to be surrounded
by leaves turning; it's not just the symbolism,
to confront in the death of the year your death,
one blazing farewell appearance, though the irony 
isn't lost on you that nature is
poem
I'm working on a poem that's so true, I can't show it to anyone.

I could never show it to anyone.

Because it says exactly what I think, and what I think scares me.

Sometimes it pleases me.

Usually it brings misery.

And this poem says exactly what I think.

What I think of myself, what I think of my friends
poem

yes	
no
maybe
sometimes
always
never

Never?
Yes.
Always?
No.
Sometimes?
Maybe—

maybe 
never
sometimes.
Yes—
no
always:

always
maybe.
No—
never
yes.