Bruce Bennett


Pale as a ghost, you let me in.
I hadn’t seen you. You were thin.
I wondered, asked, how you had been.

I wondered, asked. You were so wan.
What had you suffered? What went on
those weeks, those months, when you were gone

From me and everything we’d known
together. Desperate, all alone,
I’d suffered. I had never known

Such misery. And there you stood,
a wraith. I pled. It did no good.
I realized you never would

Reveal yourself, and let me see
that person hidden now from me.
You were that ghost you’d always be

From that day forward. Haunted, rent,
I knew then you would not relent,
and when you bid me Go, I went.

The Way I Was

I did not see it from your point of view.
I only saw how it affected me.
It was as if there wasn’t any you.

I see that now. I’m sorry. That is new.
I understand that’s how it has to be.
I could not see it from your point of view

Because I was in crisis then. I knew
that I was lost. I acted selfishly.
It was as if there wasn’t any you,

Or worse, that you didn’t matter. Yes, that too.
Survival was my goal. I could not see
the way we were from any point of view

Except my own. There’s nothing I can do
but say this now to no one. There’s no we.
There’s only me. There isn’t any you,

But if there were, and I could just get through
to you enough to say this, truthfully,
I’d say, I see, and from your point of view
you did exactly what was right for you.

The Magic Key

He sought “a magic key” I thought, and told him.
No, no, he said.  He needed something “new.”
A form to help him write in. I was puzzled.
I thought and hemmed, but didn’t know what to do.
He waited patiently. How could I help him?
His work was simple, clear. He liked to rhyme.
He said he’d puttered all his life with poems,
But now . . . Well, he was running out of time.
He hesitated, stared. And then he told me.
Dementia. It had started. It was here.
“If there is just some form . . . ?” He stopped. He waited.
His need was palpable. His eyes were clear
And earnest, focused eagerly on me
For what I didn’t possess. A magic key.​

The Presence
— for Kaji
He’s going to die. It is as if he knows.
He comes and stands a foot from where we sit
and doesn’t move. He doesn’t know what It
this is, but it is with him as he goes
about his rounds, which shrink from day to day.
His circles narrow. Time is spent in sleep
as if he’s practicing. And that’s so deep
he seems to have already gone away.
What can we do but watch him as he fades?
We stroke him, and he still will wag his tail
a time or two. But we can see the shades
close in around him. Soon the rest will fail.
Meanwhile, we have him with us where a hand
can reach him still. We let him come, and stand.

Bruce Bennett is the author of ten full-length collections of poetry and more than thirty poetry chapbooks. His most recent book is Just Another Day in Just Our Town: Poems New And Selected, 2000-2016 (Orchises Press, 2017). His most recent chapbook is A Man Rode Into Town (FootHills Publishing, 2018). He taught English and American Literature and Creative Writing and directed the Visiting Writers Series at Wells College from 1973 until his retirement in 2014, and is now Emeritus Professor of English. In 2012 he received a Pushcart Prize for a villanelle in Ploughshares. His poetry website is



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