For a Disappearing Friend, J.S. Absher

Michael Diehl, Gnarly


For a Disappearing Friend


Pity there was no ceremony
for the lobe of lung they took

the teeth all pulled, the hip replaced
the colon halved by increments

the ulcer cut from his foot
no ceremony for any of them.

Before the last ride to the ER
on the day he is losing his home

let us praise the missing pieces
curse the cocaine kicked too late

the diabetes, the cigarettes never kicked
praise the surgeon who said

you ought to have died many times by now
a saying he wears like a medal

and perhaps that’s the missing
ceremony for the missing parts.

They ought to have killed him, one of the many
heart attacks ought to have killed him

and something will, as it will me and you
dear reader, without ceremony

like the man I saw once who climbed
to the top of a Bradford pear and cut it down

limb by limb as he descended.
I was glad to see it gone but a little

shocked at how casually it came down
first tree then stump then level ground.

J.S. Absher


Review by Steve Hatfield

I like this poem for a number of reasons.  First, I like it because it doesn’t employ “poetic” flourishes, straining after Erato’s approbation; instead, it says what it has to say and gets out.  Second, I like the “disappearing” friend, his spirit and strength and the pride he takes in living however he wants to as long as he can, damn the torpedoes and all that.  I envy his sand, his brass.  He seems to be relocating into a nursing or a hospice facility of some kind, but even there, I suspect, diminished though he is, he will continue pushing against the boulder until he just can’t do it anymore, an inspiration to all of us raised on milquetoast and too much caution.  Third, I like the anecdote about how the pear tree came to be leveled—tree, then stump, then level ground.  It’s impossible to miss the correlation to the way the friend is disappearing, and I appreciate how the anecdote establishes a larger context for the poem’s subject matter than just the friend’s slow and steady leave-taking, that subject matter being, as I read it, the death coming for us all and the way we go out.  Contrasted with the friend, who will resist the fading of the light until he can’t, here’s the rest of us, whom “something” will level but who unlike the disappearing friend will go like the pear tree, “casually”—not even a bleat of protest?—a prospect that shocks the speaker “a little”.  Couldn’t we make our disappearing a harder task for the man with the chain saw, the way the friend has done?  Shouldn’t we? 


Review by Massimo Fantuzzi

Far from being an elegy to self-destruction/indulgence, in this poem, I’d like to see a song to life in its perennial motion of shedding parts in the overall indifference of a silent universe spectator. No ceremony/missing ceremony/without ceremony: the idea is repeated four times. If anything, the only luxury would be to believe in a friend high above keeping an eye, and a tally, on us and our efforts down here. That friend is disappeared.


Review by Steve Cushman

Another winner here is JS Absher’s For a Disappearing Friend, in which we see a man literally losing piece by piece of himself like the tree at the end of the poem. When he loses his teeth, pieces of colon, bits of lung, I’m reminded of a friend who writes a poem about each tooth he loses, says it’s the least he can do for these pieces of body an hardware that have worked so hard for so many years for his own sustenance and pleasure.   But the tree metaphor, chipping away, section by section, works perfectly here as well.  Bravo!



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