In the poem, Dungy writes about finding a book of poems by Phil Levine that has Hull's signature in it. It probably was from Hull's personal library, sold in the aftermath of tragic passing. It's difficult giving up a loved one's belongings. It's sort of like losing the person all over again.
I still have small pieces of junk that my sister gave me squirreled away in dresser drawers and between pages of books. Yesterday, at work, I came across a note she'd written. There they were, her unmistakable fat letters. For a moment, it was like hearing her voice again. My family still has a whole closet full of her belongings (and that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg). Letting go is shitty, hard work.
I'm glad I found this poem. It made me happy. I don't know why. It just did. Perhaps it reminded me of the discovery of my sister's little note yesterday. That note was a gift. She's still with me, watching. Somehow. Somewhere.
Saint Marty agrees with Billy Joel. Only the good die young.
by: Camille T. Dungy
Maybe you sold it to buy junk. Though I like to think not.
And I don't want to think you used the money for food
or rent or anything obligatory, practical.
A pair of boots, perhaps. Thigh high burgandy boots
with gold laces. Something crucial as lilies.
Mostly, I want to believe you held onto the book,
that your fingers brailed those pages' inky veins
even in your final weeks. I want to believe
words can be that important in the end.
Who can help the heart, which is grand and full
of gestures? I had been on my way out.
He was rearranging his bookshelves
when, in an approximation of tenderness,
he handed me, like the last of the sweet potatoes
at Thanksgiving, like a thing he wanted
but was willing to share, the rediscovered book—
he'd bought it years ago in a used bookstore
in Chicago. Levine's poems, with your signature inside.
That whole year I spent loving him, something splendid
as lemons, sour and bright and leading my tongue
toward new language, was on the shelf. These
weren't your own poems, autographed, a stranger's
souvenir—we'd spent vain months leafing through
New York stacks for your out-of-print collections—but you'd cared
about this book, or cared enough to claim it, your name
looped across the title page as if to say, Please.
This is mine, This book is mine. Though you sold it.
Or someone else did when you died.
We make habits out of words. I grew accustomed
to his, the way they spooned me into sleep
so many times. Now I am sleepless and alone
another night. What would you give for one more night
alone? No booze. No drugs. Just that hunger
and those words. He gave me The Names of the Lost.
Need comes down hard on a body. What elsewas sold? What else—do you know?—did we lose