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Missing
Mary Brown (bio)

 “Tell me what you see missing, and I will tell you who you are.”
             --W.S. Merwin, misremembered

You can miss the sound of a saw mill, the smell
   of oak or cedar rising with the dusk.  You can long
       for the taste of fresh chicken, though you were sick
          enough of it once.  You can make yourself almost

ill with the memory of the breath of a baby, long gone,
   along the length of your neck.  You can see in your keen
       mind’s eye the water’s ripple when you throw the slick
          white stone, and you wish just once more you could

take in the smell of your father’s tobacco, the thing
   that put him early into the ground.  You can even miss
       the taste of a bitter medicine, the sting of an old belt
          snapped across your bare back— as much as you

miss the calm weight of an old dog, her inexplicable low howl
   in the dead of night.  Who can say why we miss what we
       miss?  We only know the familiar joys and sorrows we
          carry in our deepest pockets take on the same scent,

or odor, the sweet mix of regret.  You can miss the feel of dry
   dust under your feet, the stir of an old spoon, the V of geese
       in an autumn sky, the hum and riff in an Easter hymn, the way
          your tongue used to catch on the dawn of a broken tooth.

 

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