False Elegy

Our neighbor Ted, a blind man, died last month.
We didn’t know his name until a friend

asked if we’d heard about the accident:

a rainy day, roadwork, a car’s bald tires.
My wife asked me why I was so upset—
I never even knew the guy’s first name.

“That’s why,” I said, “We should’ve known his name.”
“We just moved in,” she said, “It’s been nine months.”
“Ten,” I said, “Why aren’t you more upset?”

I heard her Skyping later with friend—
she griped about the roadwork (her new tires),
predicting it would cause an accident.

I glared at her: “Another accident.”

When she logged off, she shouted my full name

like my mother would. “Sorry,” she said, “I’m tired.”
I offered to buy a card—or was a month

too long to wait? She nodded, “For a friend

or relative. But buy one. You’re upset.”

I asked my therapist if he could set

me straight: “Zoloft?” He said the accident
brought back my cousin’s death, how I unfriended
his wife who’d photoshopped his rank and name
above a dead bald eagle. “That was months

ago,” I said. I tried to squeeze out a tear.

I bought a card (fall leaves, rain) but retired
it to the nightstand—What if it upset

Ted’s wife? My wife told me to wait a month
and I’d forget about the accident.
The more I tried the more I heard Ted’s name
in conversation. I annoyed my friends.

I couldn’t sleep. Why bother to befriend

new people anymore? My thoughts felt tired.
My voice, my attitude, even my name.

My wife was tired, too: “You’re still upset?”
“Yes, I’m upset, there’s been an accident.”

“Enough,” she said, “You’ve been this way for months.”

The months dragged on, the year. I felt less tired,
upset about my non-friend’s accident.

I mailed the card but didn’t sign my name.

BRIAN BRODEUR is the author of the poetry collections Natural Causes (2012) and Other Latitudes (2008), as well as the poetry chapbooks Local Fauna (2015) and So the Night Cannot Go on Without Us (2007). New poems and essays appear in American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry (online), The Hopkins Review, Measure, The Missouri Review, River Styx, Southwest Review, and The Writer’s Chronicle. Founder and Coordinator of the Veterans Writing Workshop of Richmond, Indiana, he lives with his wife and daughter in the Whitewater River Valley.