Illustration: duck flying over pond at night

Words to Use with Caution

Oh, but they sounded so good when first
I came across them, and so for a time

I passed them along: may memories bring you comfort.

And then I lost the one with whom I shared
forty-nine years. And then, not long after, I saw

the bench along the river where he loved to sit

and watch the never-ending constellations of ducks,
ducklings, and herons shifting, wild geese

gliding in for a landing and off again they’d go—

he’d sit because he couldn’t walk much further—and I
needed to walk at a faster pace another twenty

minutes or so—because he wanted to take care also of me—

because he took such joy in simply being.
No, that first time I went to the river alone

and saw him not there, fierce

and sudden tears punched and punched and did not stop
until, back home, a neighbor with griefs of her own

put her arms around me and held me a long, long, silent time.

Friends, those memories nearly
knocked me right down.

Ingrid Wendt is a writer, pianist, mother of one and grandmother of two, who sings second alto with the Eugene (Oregon) Symphony Chorus. Co-editor of the anthology In Her Own Image: Women Working in the Arts (The Feminist Press) and of the Oregon Poetry Anthology, From Here We Speak (OSU Press), she is author of five-full length collections of poems, most recently, Evensong. Her husband of 49 years, poet and writer Ralph Salisbury, died in October, 2017. She is getting stronger. Recent poems appear online in About Place, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and (very soon) in Calyx, and Ascent. Her website (in process of being updated) is

Duck illustration by C.B. Auder (digital collage).

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