By John Foy


How can I help you with your grief,
though maybe I shouldn’t even try
if truth be told.  There’s no relief
really.  Your mother had to die
someday, and how unfit
a man you’d be if you couldn’t make
believe you were tough enough to take it
and move on, how fake
the higher calculus, being
at peace and all that.  You’ve lost
her now, few care, and nothing
can help, and no one knows the cost
you’ve paid—but everyone knows
we die like dogs in the deep snow.

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JOHN FOY's first book is Techne's Clearinghouse (Zoo Press). His poetry is featured in the Swallow Anthology of New American Poets (Swallow Press/Ohio University Press) and has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New Criterion, Parnassus, The Raintown Review, Barrow Street, Think Journal, Cimarron Review, and other periodicals.  His work has also been selected for the Poetry Daily website, Umbrella, and linebreak.org and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  He has an MFA from Columbia University and works for Itaú BBA Securities in New York, where he is senior editor of Equity Research.  He has taught writing at Harvard Business School, Columbia, and Barnard.  His essay-reviews have appeared in Parnassus, Contemporary Poetry Review, and other publications. John has spent much time in France and Brazil and currently lives in New York with his wife, son and daughter.

4 responses to “Condolences”

  1. “how fake
    the higher calculus, being
    at peace and all that.”

    Perfect and lovely, John.

    • John Foy says:

      Litsa, thanks for your comment. That poem is the hard side of the self talking to the gentler side. When my mother died I was filled with grief, of course, but to my surprise I was also filled with rage. Anger at the big cosmic wrong. That’s where the poem came from.

  2. Alanna says:

    I never know what to say when someone else loses a loved one. I want to rage with them, to tell them it’s wrong, it shouldn’t have happened. Instead it always comes out trite- and not enough.

    Love this

    “—but everyone knows
    we die like dogs in the deep snow.”

  3. John Foy says:

    Alanna, thanks. I know what you mean. It’s never easy. I could not say to a friend or loved one what I said in that poem. It’s too harsh. I guess that’s why I had to write the poem. In the subways in New York I look around at all the people and think that every single one of them one day will go through the same thing, the loss of a mother or father. Many of them already have. It’s not a unique circumstance. It happens to everyone. But when it happens to you, it feels terribly unique. Some time has to pass before you can feel any solidarity.

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