Martha Collins

Because What Else Could I Do
February 24, 2019 Collins Martha

from Because What Else Could I Do


                         Ted, 1938-2016


I alone in a restaurant

and what is left of you at home


in a plastic box on your dresser where

you kept your socks and put your change—


and what will I do at home in my own

house, what will I do with my one


spoon and my wide bed, what

will I do without without




and with you went my summer sun, a friend

or two, and who was there, and with you went


the weeks to come, the months so far (so far,

my one!), my body too, the one I knew


as one of two, though you forgot to take

desire, which now is wrapped in grief’s long arms,


and with you went the one I was, that was

—within, without, with you—mostly brave


and largely true, the one I find some moments

in some darkened place of joy, then lose




snow is over

everything is covered

with you white


over the lines

of the trees reverse

writing silent




I have to tell you I’m    sleeping with

a snowy owl    a kids’    puppet my friend

sent me    it has    a stick so you can turn

the head all the way    around    the way

owls do    but I can’t feel    the stick her

wings    wrap part way    around    me

and comfort    me I    know she is a    she

because she has    black spots    and I

should also mention    the photograph

taken by    another friend    who gave it

to me it’s    sitting    on my desk beside

some pictures    of you it’s    a snowy

owl and she    is flying    toward you




in your rust-colored jacket

your blue striped shirt


on your skis, in the woods

on the beach, in the surf


your house, your house

in winter, in spring


in your office chair

in the yard with your kids


in California

in Florence, in Rome


your lilacs before

they broke in the storm


your face, your face

all over now

Martha Collins’s eleventh volume of poetry is Casualty Reports (Pittsburgh, 2022); her tenth, Because What Else Could I Do (Pittsburgh, 2019), won the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award. Her fifth volume of co-translated Vietnamese poetry is Dreaming the Mountain by Tuệ Sỹ, with Nguyen Ba Chung (Milkweed, 2023).  Collins founded the U.Mass. Boston creative writing program and taught at Oberlin College for ten years.