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Joanne the Poet - The Poetry of Joanne M. Clarkson

Poems to Honor and Console

Poems to Honor and Console

My most recent publication is “The Goodbye Skin,” which just appeared in the Ars Erotica issue of Perfume River Poetry Review.  Editor Vuong Quoc Vu has selected poems of great sensitivity and beauty to include in this issue about love.  I very much enjoy his own poetry as well as the poems he chooses to include in his publications. Much of his heart is still with his native country of Vietnam.

We write best about what our hearts are most drawn toward. Therefore many of mine involve people I have cared for as a nurse.  By crafting a poem for these people I feel that I honor them and console myself.  It is not easy to witness suffering, but necessary not to look away.  Below is my poem.

The Goodbye Skin


She asks to lie beside him for an

hour, just an hour, before earth claims him

and the smoky wind.  I see her

climb onto the bed that for weeks

had housed nerve endings so brittle

the air seemed to bleed.  No

he had screamed when she reached out


to touch him.  Today his stillness is accepting

as she curls against stiff limbs.  I leave

the room, closing the door softly, taping up

a makeshift sign so that no worker

on a pleasureless schedule interrupts a passion

beyond intimacy or tear.  Is it possible


to reach the dead?  Minutes or years later?  To

beg the breeze for a fingertip or sun for the burn

of cheek against cheek?  Is this what heaven

becomes: loving once again a skin

not our own?  I do not see


her leave, but by the end of the shift

the room is empty, ragged cocoon.  On the naked

mattress only indentations remain: head,

shoulders, buttocks, heels and next to this:

the curve of a hip bone.


(Tourane Poetry Press, P.O. Box 2192, Cupertino, CA  95015-2192)

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