I wrote Absent Friends after I had heard that a childhood friend has suddenly passed away. Becky noted that we are at an age where it’s still unusual for our peers to die, but that starting now is the time when those whose health is more fragile for one reason or another will start to go. It’s a sad reminder than I’m fast approaching the midpoint of life. On other side of that realization is something that Clark Byse, a man whom I worked for as his assistant for a few years, told me one day as we were going to have dinner together with his wife. At the time, he was older than 90, and remarked that there were fewer and fewer people his own age around him. He was, in some circumstances, the last man standing and it was a lonely place.
Death has a weird place in poetry. For all the love and nature and beauty, death is constantly present in poetry because it is the natural conclusion of life. Some poets embrace it, some run from it. Some fall in love with it, which is dangerous. In any case, to absent friends.