Maurice Manning

The Gone and the Going Away
November 14, 2011 Manning Maurice

The Gone and the Going Away


The world I know keeps going farther

and farther away.  I cannot keep it

from going, though I love it still,

and yet, with darker joy.  The dark

because that world was soaked in sadness;

the joy because I understood

and lived there, too.  It’s that simple,

sometimes love can stay in the heart

of such a time and place and turn

to fiercer love, to love beyond

all understanding of the name.

Not really simple, no.  The world

I live in now feels flattened out;

it isn’t simple or difficult,

it is a world of wanting more,

but tired of having all it has.

But I won’t condemn that predicament:

I’m not a prophet, not yet.  Perhaps I knew

this would happen, a removal in time from time,

but I didn’t know it would happen so soon,

one world replaced by a later world

I don’t belong to.  Yet still, today,

while walking in the woods, I remembered

the first one, the one I’m from.  I remembered

a boy, dear Lord forgive him, who killed

the neighbor’s kittens.  One by one,

he hung them from a clothesline until

they slumped like a row of wet socks.

I thought about that day, a mean one,

about the boy whose mother beat him

with a soup ladle, whose father got drunk

and run over by a coal train—

and then I had a larger thought,

and more disturbing: I wondered where

did all the old time people go?

Who’s hidden them away and why?

The country poor are hard to count,

but easy to blame for the way they live,

a dog chained to a wooden box,

a junk-pile heaped in the yard, a twist

of smoke rising from a barrel.

Surely they know better.  Surely

we all do always, but don’t.  I knew

a boy named Billy Oglesby

who carried a pistol in his boot.

He married a girl and pretty soon

they had a baby and started going

to this hollering church and got convinced

the baby had a demon in it.

So they burned the baby’s toys and clothes

in their patch of yard and locked the baby

in a shed for three days and prayed

the demon out.  And it worked, the praying.

Is it hope or hopelessness we see

in this little scene, the burn-pile flecked

with bits of color, but mostly ash?

I don’t know, but part of me is glad

it happened.  I don’t know why.

I recognize it, I see it all;

it doesn’t hide the human truth.

O, woman who washed your worn clothes

in a bucket on the stove, old man

who napped in the yard with the goat who ate

the buttons off your shirt, where are

you now?  Has some peace found you?  And you,

Agnes Caldwell, you woe-bent digger

of mountain graves, O what became

of you and the weary songs you sang?

Does some still water run beside

you now?  O, will you keep a place

for me beside you in the grass?

You, Vicey.  You, Peanut.  You, Hopper.  You, Red.


Maurice Manning’s most recent book is Railsplitter.  He lives with his family in Kentucky.