Friday, November 17, 2023



Photo © 2023 Jennifer Wagner

She’s been gone

for a long time now.


A few summers ago

we visited the house in Valpo

where they’d lived as a young family

when the current occupant let us in


to look around

in what had been an old funeral parlor

they’d made a home

with a visiting bat.


I love that.


I wish I could have heard her laugh there.

In fact, I never got to meet her, and

she never got to hold her grandsons.

I’d have liked to have held her hand

when they were born.


But, Gretchen gave me

the little book of poems

she’d taken of her things,

all those long years ago,

pressing a flower from her casket

between the pages

never knowing what a memorial it would be—


a reminder

of how she still gets inside us

in each of those boys’ smiles.


She’s been gone

for a long time now.

But still here.


And I love that, too.



© 2023 Jennifer Wagner


My husband’s beautiful mom passed away at the very young age of 31.  When she died, his aunt took Rod McKuen’s book, Caught in the Quiet, from among her things and pressed a bloom from her casket in the pages of the poem “thirty-one.”  She gave me the book, and a way to hold her hand.


What's Going On?



  1. Thank you for such a beautiful tribute. I love it.

  2. That's marvelous. Sometimes there turns out to be some small way to bridge the distance.

    I used to have a whole pile of Rod McKuen books in my 20's. I don't know what became of them. I liked them.

  3. This poem is so moving, Jennifer. I love that you see her in your sons' smiles, and that you have that book with its pressed bloom to remember her beautiful and too-short life.

  4. This is such a beautiful and touching poem, Jennifer. She died SO young. How wonderful that the current occupant let you inside the house so you could do some picturing of what it might have been like when she lived there. I too was a fan of Rod McKuen poetry. I am sure I still have his books, and I also own an LP of him singing in his gravel voice. The gift of the book was a touching one. So glad to see you!!

  5. O Rod McKuen! Part of my history, too. I enjoyed the entire set up of this poem, using the occasion of a visit to a place as a frame for memory and presence of real love. Bravo!

  6. This poem is a moving tribute, so full of love expressed in beautiful images presented here.

  7. I love how you could get that across from the other side of the grave... and yes we see the past in every children borne

  8. Such a moving poem--the loss and the continuity of life.

  9. What a beautiful poem...and then to see the image...and then to read your words after your poem. I actually got tears in my eyes. Thirty-one is far too young to become an angel. I like to think your thoughts in this poem have been "read" by her in another world. Thank you for posting.

  10. A wonderful tribute, Jennifer. I too had a collection of books by Rod McKuen in my younger years. I gave them to my mother, who treasured them, but I don't know what happened to them after that.

  11. Surreal, the way this one unfolded. I know the feeling you have described... my niece has a striking resemblance to my grandmother who passed away years before she was born!

  12. Thank you, Jen. Such a beautiful tribute to my beautiful friend/sister-in-law. I often wondered why I chose the poetry book from her things when she died, and now I know, for you. ❤️


Thank you for your thoughts!