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Rachel Hadas

"You see, the world is coming to an end,"
she says. We're on the porch; our rockers creak.
Tomorrow vanishes around a bend.

For fifty years she's been a family friend
whom I should really visit once a week,
now that the world is coming to an end.

I reach out; put my hand over her hand.
We sit and for a moment do not speak.
A rapid shadow slides around the bend

beyond which I'm not keen to understand
what lies in wait. For her, though, every look
confirms the world is coming to an end,

as if we're inchlings in a giant land-
scape, pulled helplessly toward some black
cavity where the road takes a sharp bend.

We rock. She sighs. Talk of the future: banned.
The past? That's out too: obsolete, antique.
Marooned in now, she contemplates the end,
leaning a little into that last bend.


About the poet: 

Rachel Hadas is the Board of Governors professor of English at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, where she has taught for many years. Strange Relation: A Memoir of Marriage, Dementia and Poetry (Paul Dry Books, 2011) and a poetry collection, The Golden Road (Northwestern University Press, 2012), are her most recent books.

About the poem: 

"This villanelle was inspired by my summer visits to a nonagenarian friend in Vermont, a former neighbor who now lives in a lovely assisted-living cottage, where we sit on the porch when I visit, and talk in our rocking chairs. Some topics are easier than others."

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro