The messages all begin
"I don't know if you heard..."
Last night, I heard
tree frogs making a racket,
trying to find each other
in the dark. And now
the empty sleeves of shirts
tumble in the drier
with a bit of change
I forgot in the pockets-
while in your apartment,
the sounds of trains,
the brakes and screeching,
still rumble past
and keep you from sleeping.

The messages all begin
"I don't know if you heard..."
and I wish I hadn't,
because I cannot imagine
not hearing your voice.
There can't be silence
in a room where
you lived. There cannot
be a lonely echo
in our memory of you,
or in any room where
so many of your friends,
full of talk, full of stories,
are gathered in your name.    

Ron Block now lives in South Jersey, where he teaches at Rowan University. He is the author of the collection The Dirty Shame Hotel and Other Stories. His poems have been published in Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, and other
magazines. His poem "Denise" was originally published in the newsletter Lines of Communication (College of Communication, Rowan University). He also has a monthly radio program, and you can hear him read a very funny memoir by Denise Gess called "Bad for Boys" at Click on Writers' Roundtable.


I began this poem in the empty hours after hearing that my friend, the novelist Denise Gess, had died after a long journey through the strange place she called Cancerland. Although I began writing the poem immediately, revision was very much a part of the emotional experience of this poem, since by going over and over it, I felt like I could
remain in Denise's presence a little while longer.

In the first stanza, I record everything that's happening when I hear the news with a documentary sense of immediacy, but the closest I can get to imagining her dying is to recall how she was unable to sleep with the sounds of the trains close by her apartment, along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

In the second stanza, I start over, at a slightly greater distance, with a direct refusal: I cannot imagine her absence...but I can imagine all her friends coming together to sustain her life through stories. Stories were her life, especially her two wonderful novels, Good Deeds and Red Whiskey Blues. And in our crazy, funny, lively stories about her, she now abides.



Copyright 2009