Shutting the Book                                                                                              —Philip Dacey

Grade school. Quiet time for reading.
Sr. Mary Rose patrolling the aisles.
Good little Catholic boy that I was,
all focused on my book, I didn’t notice
her coming up from behind me until,

stopping beside my desk, she flipped shut
my book with one quick move of her hand
and asked me, as I looked up surprised,
“What’s the last word you read?”
I knew but was too startled to speak—

guilt swarmed me as if I’d done something wrong,
though I didn’t know what—while she smiled
a knowing smile and went on, leaving me
too puzzled to return to my book
and wondering, as I still wonder,

at her purpose. To make me slow down
my reading speed and savor the words?
To relieve her boredom? I do know
I didn’t think as I sat there that she had given me
the gift of a memento mori, rehearsal

for the day a figure—also in black—comes up
beside me from behind, slams shut my book,
and asks, “What’s the last word you read?”
and I take that one word
with me into eternity.

Philip Dacey

Philip Dacey’s latest of thirteen books is Church of the Adagio (Rain Mountain Press, 2014). The Ice-Cream Vigils will appear in 2016 (Red Dragonfly Press). Winner of three Pushcart Prizes and included in Scribner’s Best American Poetry 2014, Dacey has published whole volumes of poems about Gerard Manley Hopkins, Thomas Eakins, and New York City. A book of poems about Walt Whitman, now in progress, will complete his Victorian trilogy. He lives in Minneapolis.

ISSN 2472-338X
© 2016