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