Collected Poems of John Holmes
Holmes, John A., Jr.
The bell rings, the door shuts, Weeklies are put away.
I stand by the desk, book open, and think, "One more day.
They are all mine so far, the absent are only ill
Or cutting the class, but with me in college still."
It is time, and I talk, but who am I talking to?
Unmarried widow. Dead man. Is it you? Or you?
Recite now, girl whose lover will be drowned.
Answer me, boy whose brother never will be found.
You, silent in the back row waiting, speak
Before you put on uniform next month, next week.
The question is-the question is, who? Who?
Quick, which one among you am I talking to?
You ought to know. The answer is: it will be
Not the well-known, and not those near to me
At first, and not the names I'd miss the most
At first, but the tall guy at the car-stop post
You miss after two weeks. Then a room-mate's friend.
Then yours. Then gaps nothing at all can mend.
Till then there's nothing at all that I can do,
But the one I'll call on first tomorrow is you,
And wonder which it is I really fear,
The "Here, sir," or the, "Sorry, but he isn't here."