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Long Goodbyes
John Lee Clark


I miss all of the long goodbyes
of my parents' guests
taking their leave by not leaving

when it was time to go. Someone would sign
Better go home we but hours would pass
around our round table--

the bowls of our hands offering
confession after confession
assuring us that we are we--

before anyone stands up.
Then others, sighing, will stand up
slowly and slowly walk

through our house, pausing
where the walls offer stories,
reasons to stay longer

and touch more things with our hands.
I remember how long,
how wonderfully they stood

unwilling to open the front door,
signing away with warm faces
and hugging goodbye again

before going gently into the night.
My family would huddle to watch
their cars' headlights roll away

but pause to flash in the Deaf way,
waving goodbye to our house.
How we children dashed inside

to light switches for our house
to wave back goodbye,
light to light bright in the night!

Now that I am grown
and have my own family, do come
for a visit but do not leave

when it is time to go. Sign, do sign
Better go home we and our hands
will make time go suddenly slow.

From Suddenly Slow (Handtype Press, 2008)
Used with the author's permission.





John Lee Clark was born deaf and became blind in adolescence. His work has appeared in many publications and he is the author of a chapbook and editor of the definitive anthology, Deaf American Poetry, published by Gallaudet University Press.  A collection of essays is forthcoming. John is a certified Braille instructor and a certified Pro-Tactile trainer. When not writing, he enjoys spending time with his wife and three sons, tandem cycling, and various community activities. John lives in St. Paul, Minnesota; learn more about him at


Post New Comment:
Interesting and effective to use such well-ordered words to describe alternate forms of communication.
Posted 12/27/2014 01:07 PM
So true, so accurate, the way you describe these long goodbyes. We must savor them!
Posted 12/27/2014 12:44 PM
Yes, sentimental but not sappy. Genuine feeling. I enjoyed this poem
Posted 12/27/2014 11:53 AM
Beautifully expressed, in whatever language. Makes me want to learn sign all over again.
Posted 12/27/2014 10:15 AM
I remember those long good-byes from my youth.
Posted 12/27/2014 09:02 AM
such a touching poem
Posted 12/27/2014 08:51 AM
Larry Schug:
Thank you for opening our eyes, John. All of us seem to be blind and deaf in so many ways. There is truth that is universal in this poem.
Posted 12/27/2014 08:01 AM
I love this--the compactness of the lines, the internal rhyme, the sentimental but not sappy feelings...
Posted 12/27/2014 07:23 AM
beautiful window into another way of being : sign Better go home we and our hands will make time go suddenly slow.
Posted 12/27/2014 07:04 AM

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