Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 20, 2012

A Poem for Ed Smith

On Tuesday I lost a dear friend. Since then there have been lots of phone calls, some with people I love and some with people I hardly know. Talking of shock and memories, and photos and food.  I’ve been writing a talk for the service this weekend: that strange work of trying to put a life, one you’re aching over losing, into a few words. Trying to balance between wanting so badly to honor this person and accepting the inevitability of failing to do enough.

Yesterday I went to bed feeling too much on my shoulders. This morning I woke up to snow on the ground, and the voice of my good friend, Karen, in my head, saying, “Jeannine, you’re looking out for others, but what do you need?” This morning I needed to look at the snow and write a poem. Here it is:

For Ed Smith

September 4, 1954 —  January 17, 2012

The big-shouldered man in a flannel shirt planted

sweet peas, bright petunias, morning glories

that would brim from  hanging pots.

Music broke on the walls of the greenhouse

where loyal white dogs named after mountains

dozed on the floor or sought shade in the barn.

Shelves held pieces of old trucks, gears, motors,

wrenches, hammers, and old slate.


Among the pines between barn and house,

cardinals and chickadees peck for seed.

Who will fill the feeders now?  Three springs ago,

I watched other birds from the kitchen Ed built,

heard his footsteps through the garage and stood

to open my arms. He knew what that meant,

held on for a shaky minute, then went straight

to the bedroom to say goodbye.  Even during


the first days of missing Pat,

I don’t think this good husband forgot to feed the birds.

The big dog lumbered as we paced the back yard

talking of songs, food, and champagne, listened

to the brook, stared at the walls of the barn

filled with parts of old cars and wood to fix doors.

Ed could mend almost anything.


  1. Jeannine, I’m so, so sorry. Such a huge, double loss for you. The poem is lovely–I hope it took some of that weight off your shoulders.

    • Thanks so much for caring, Becky. Those shoulders, they get heavy, then lighter, then heavy again.

  2. Oh, my goodness, I’m so sorry Jeannine.

  3. I can see him, Jeannine…thank you for the poem.

    And I’m for certain he knew you saw him clearly as he lived, too.

  4. Oh! I got teary reading your wonderful beautiful poem. I’m so very sorry for your loss. Hugs to you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: