Waving Goodbye

by Wesley McNair

Why, when we say goodbye
at the end of an evening, do we deny
we are saying it at all, as in We'll
be seeing you, or I'll call, or Stop in,
somebody's always at home? Meanwhile, our friends,
telling us the same things, go on disappearing
beyond the porch light into the space
which except for a moment here or there
is always between us, no matter what we do.
Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens
when the space gets too large
for words – a gesture so innocent
and lonely, it could make a person weep
for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown
voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel
patting and stroking the growing distance
between their nameless ship and the port
they are leaving, as if to promise I'll always
remember, and just as urgently, Always
remember me. It is loneliness, too,
that makes the neighbor down the road lift
two fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes
day after day on his way to work in the hello
that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised
fingers to for him, locked in his masculine
purposes and speeding away inside the glass?
How can our waving wipe away the reflex
so deep in the woman next door to smile
and wave on her way into her house with the mail,
we'll never know if she is happy
or sad or lost? It can't. Yet in that moment
before she and all the others and we ourselves
turn back to our disparate lives, how
extraordinary it is that we make this small flag
with our hands to show the closeness we wish for
in spite of what pulls us apart again
and again: the porch light snapping off,
the car picking its way down the road through the dark.

please note: photo of Ronald Reagan in the colonnade of the White House, January 20, 1989.


  1. This is an extraordinary poem. I am quite taken with the concept of loneliness behind our waves. Will be pondering this one for awhile.

    I at first glance thought that looked like Reagan, and you confirmed at the end of the post. I wish that man had waved goodbye after only one term....or really had never waved hello to the White House in the first place. But that is my humble and heartfelt opinion and I'm sticking with it for life.

  2. This is just beautiful: "a gesture so innocent
    and lonely"--what a perfect description of a universal gesture. Thanks for sharing this!


    PS I share Lydia's opinion about Reagan. :0)

  3. This says it exactly for me.

  4. I become aware of how little actual contact there is with others each day - and how, if I kept this awareness, I might treasure the contact and honor it, actually be present to it.

  5. A truly beautiful poem... who could not relate to that ?

    And does the time spent here in the comment box count as time between wave hello and a wave goodbye ? Or is it imaginary ?

  6. "Wave bye-bye!"

    I suspect that it is learned to say just after "Mama" and said more often than "Salut!"

    I agree with Lydia that it is an extraordinary poem. Damn... But I'm still back at the poem about the heart not knowing that the body was perfect and the iPoem.

    Elizabeth Donato of "As My World Turns" had a nice quote in fb that made me think of "A Tidings of Magpies":

    "I wouldn't be surprised if poetry - poetry in the broadest sense, in the sense of a world filled with metaphor, rhyme, and recurring patterns, shapes, and designs - is how the world works. The world isn't logical, it's a song."

    - David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries -

    I read recently about the production he has created based upon the Philippines "shoe" lady–her name is slipping my mind... Makes me want to read Bicycle Diaries.

  7. Beautiful, yet Hauntingly Sad and True. I never thought of good bye or a hand gesture in quite this manner. Its a great work.
    Love your Blog!

  8. I love this: "Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens
    when the space gets too large
    for words"


Post a Comment

Hey, thanks for your thoughts and your time:>)

Popular posts from this blog

Saturday in CinCity. The CollegeGrrrl Guest Writer Edition.

Sunday in CinCity. The "Three Things I Know About Life...It Goes On" Edition

Fresh Starts