For Richard Hugo

The bombs from World War II
kept killing the roses.
Nothing would stop the guilt.
Nightmares kept the bottle near.

The girl from ’39
wouldn't come back.
Not one day older,
holding out her arms

We had in common
the guts to 
quit it. Talked

about it when we met,
February ’75, new York City.
Told you The Hilltop was 
my favorite poem about

alcohol’s deep loneliness,
pain, guilt. You shrugged,
reminded me more of a

jolly candy store owner
than a poet on tour,
spreading the word.

“It's all there,” I said,
“in 27 lines—the reinforcement.
of everything necessary to keep
a man drowning in the sauce.”

You smiled,
and with a single swoop
of an arm,
waved the words away.

You won, Richard!
You beat the bottle, the ghosts,
sticking it out to the end. 

You gave us some good poems,
a few are great.
This one is for you,
a poem as farewell drink,

and a minute of silence.

from After I'm Dead, Will My Life Begin? Copyright © James Humphrey Trust

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