Invisible dark glasses
can’t shut the fright from his eyes.

Fog thins
and under his feet, the edge
how far, far down
a figure has disappeared.

An aftershock of sparks
flies up
singeing his skin
—promises unkept too long:
she’s gone.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Mourner”?

“Mourner” was written for an acquaintance whose wife died without warning. The shock of her loss was a wake-up call that he too, like all of us, was standing on the edge of mortality and could be snatched from this earth at any time. He also had to suffer knowing it was too late to say the good things to her that he should have, long before.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Mourner”?

The poem is built on the image of a volcanic vent to express the intensity of the husband’s combined fear, grief, and remorse. I used near rhyme (“eyes … reminds”; “down … long … gone”) and internal rhyme (“thins … skin”) to build harmony. I made the lines uneven in length to reflect the mourner’s emotional turmoil.

This poem “Mourner” originally appeared in Canadian Literature 160 (Spring 1999): 76-76.

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