Vox Populi

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Wayne Karlin: Because You Are Not Here

For my wife, Ohnmar Thein Karlin,
9/29/1950 - 2/28/2020

Clothes that touched your skin
cling for a desperate second
on the metal maw of the donation bin,
tumble into darkness

But when I come home
you return with me, awakened
in a saffron spill of light
on the kitchen counter

The wood molding splintered
by the turn of a wheel-chair
at the bathroom door.

The medicine cabinet opening to
an audience of empty pill bottles
their faint rattle a mockery of applause.

The tight hollow of silence
in the bedroom, in the chest,
in the narrow of the throat.

Because you are not here
you are always here

Because you will never be here
you are always here.


Copyright 2022 Wayne Karlin

Wayne Karlin is the author of eight novels and three non-fiction 
books. His awards include The Paterson Prize in Fiction, The
Vietnam Veterans of America Excellence in the Arts Award, and 
the Juniper Prize in Fiction. His short fiction collection, 
Memorial Days, will be published by Texas Tech University 
Press in Spring, 2023.

10 comments on “Wayne Karlin: Because You Are Not Here

  1. Sean Sexton
    October 29, 2022

    Sometimes I am tardy reading these posts/poems.
    This is so beautiful, also makes me wonder if Wayne knows the great John Balaban, whose voice and story also stems in part from Viet Nam. I must also ask Andy Wilkinson who is a professor at Texas Tech if he has read Wayne. But back to the poem which is very moving—
    Thank you for this today, 18 days truant to my thoughts, but like everything late to the heart, still on time.


  2. Lisa Zimmerman
    October 21, 2022

    Beautiful poem ❤️
    “The tight hollow of silence
    in the bedroom, in the chest,
    in the narrow of the throat.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jason Irwin
    October 12, 2022

    wonderful poem


  4. Hien Ngo
    October 11, 2022

    I have been to your house. It was nine years ago. Reading this poem, I feel as if I were visiting your house again and being served tea and fruit by your tender wife.


    • Vox Populi
      October 12, 2022

      What a gracious thing to say. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wayne Karlin
      October 12, 2022

      Thank you, Hien. I’m so glad you had that chance to experience Ohnmar’s generous heart.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Barbara Huntington
    October 11, 2022

    Love this. Still those flashes although I lost Fred in 2010


  6. allisonfine
    October 11, 2022

    Touching. Beautiful. The pictures are heartbreaking.


    • Vox Populi
      October 11, 2022

      Yes, I was glad that Wayne sent me the two contrasting photographs. I think they add a lot to the elegy.



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This entry was posted on October 11, 2022 by in Poetry, spirituality and tagged , , , , , .

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