Nothing

By Lawrence Raab

Featured Art: Georgia O’Keeffe—Hands and Thimble by Alfred Stieglitz

Why not believe death is also nothing?
—Dean Young

Sometimes nothing’s a glass
waiting to be filled, and sometimes

it’s sleep without dreams, a blank slate
no one gets to leave a message on,

that sheet of water boys skip stones across
to watch them vanish. And sometimes

nothing’s only a word that can hide
what it means inside what it means.

But when I’ve seen death it’s looked
like betrayal, like life taking back

what it promised, slowly picking
our friends apart until nothing

must feel like an answer, and death
slips into the room pretending to care.

Did it brush by me just now,
did it mean to touch my hand?


Lawrence Raab is the author of seven collections of poems, including What We Don’t Know About Each Other (winner of the National Poetry Series, and a Finalist for the National Book Award), The Probable World, and Visible Signs: New and Selected Poems, all published by Penguin. His latest collection is The History of Forgetting (Penguin, 2009). He teaches literature and writing at Williams College.

Piece originally published in NOR 13.

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