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Appropriate Utterance.


   If on a normal sunny day we happened to meet
   and I said "How are you?"
   and you answered "I am sorry for your loss"

   you might be implying, with understated eloquence,
   that your own well-being is inseparable from mine
   as we share in the human condition of living in time

   whereby at every moment we have been abandoned
   by the reality of a moment ago and yesterday is
   irretrievable and memory gives us only a filmy spray
   of images representing a teasy scrap of what we saw
   and what we felt and this is true even when
   what is gone from today is someone you did truly love.

   And if you were to speak to me briefly on the street or in a store
   and I said as I moved away "Nice to see you"
   the remark might not be banal,

   it could mean that I appreciate our painfully limited condition
   of being persons largely obscured from view yet still
   with some capacity to perceive one another and to affirm
   that I have, despite the deluge of atomizing distractions,
   observed that you stand there facing me in your essential dignity.

   When I walked into the funeral home
   to attend the service for an old colleague I'd hardly known

   a woman I didn't recognize approached and thanked me
   for being there and paused and said "I'm Nancy"

   and I murmured "Nice to see you" and turned away confused
   and found a seat among the mourners, realizing

   how gracefully the widow had acted as if my phrase had been
   right enough for the occasion, as if I'd said what a person
   should say.
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Author:Halliday, Mark
Publication:Colorado Review: A Journal of Contemporary Literature
Article Type:Poem
Date:Sep 22, 2011
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