I’ve thought of you from time to time, four decades 

since you went back to your vast continent 

and disappeared from small talk. Curious, 

I search the Net for you. Some unrevealing  

death notices and one police report. 

I didn’t even know that you had died. 


I find your last address on Google Streetview. 

It is one of two buildings, one set back. 

Neither’s a flophouse but they don’t look much. 

They’ve not been cared for as their neighbours have. 

Your apartment’s number suggests the ground floor. 

At our age, when we have to start to answer 

to ourselves for what we have made of life, 

there should be more to show at where you lived, 

bohemian and bookish, than this peeling 

white paint, those cheap cars on the forecourt, surely.

I wonder whether it’s some kind of shelter. 

They say you were a freelance writer. Nothing 

confirms this on the Net, so did you die 

committed to a writing no one wanted? 

Hold hopes too long that, failing, broke the spirit? 

It might just be you took your own life. 


Forgive me that I cannot let you go 

altogether forgotten to your grave, 

if that was what you wanted in the last hours. 

The ignobility of your arrest, 

little more than a week before you died, 

makes you someone I just don’t recognise, 

puts you somewhere I flinch from thinking of, 

drunk by mid-morning, or, your mind destroyed, 

gone, flashing and swearing at a woman 

from next door, someone you may have known, 

who called the cops. That’s on record. Their brief 

report, all facts, no story, make me want 

only to think of you when we were young –  


the morning, say, when somebody had heard 

you weren’t sure if the Grateful Dead were playing 

pre- or post-revolutionary music 

but you were working on it. I forget 

the answer but expectancy comes back 

and I recall our walk through fields one dawn 

when the first bird chirped from the trees around, 

then all, to ring us with ecstatic sound. 


It is still dark in the world. 

Already I am not a  young man. 


from Doves (Faber, 2017), © Lachlan MacKinnon 2017, used by permission of the author and publisher, Faber & Faber Ltd.

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