Hacker, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell
  • Date of entry: Apr-13-2001
  • Last revised: Aug-22-2006


The speaker addresses her 20-year-old daughter, who has just lost her best friend in an automobile accident. This elegant five-part poem is a reflection on grief, as well as on the bond between the mother and daughter.


The suddenness of death in a young person is shattering and, for those left behind, frequently a life-defining event. In Hacker’s poem, the daughter returns home after receiving her mother’s phone call. "You cried / like the child you probably ceased to be / the moment that I told you she was dead," says the speaker /mother. The boyfriend, who had been driving the car, remains in a hospital, "wired and re-formed / in plaster, weeping because he was still alive."

She realizes that the daughter is also "growing away from" her, as she moves towards her friends for consoling. The mother also reflects on how death had probably been an ever-present concern for the daughter, given the grandmother’s recent stroke, and in spite of the fact that "[c]hemo has let me live so far," and that "[s]ome fluke, prudence or miracle / has kept your father seronegative." The daughter might have been prepared for the death of one of these people, but not her best friend.

The poem presents an opportunity to reflect not only on the impact of death on a young person, but the process of letting go (the mother letting go of the daughter; the daughter letting go of her childhood; of her friend).

Primary Source

Squares and Courtyards: Poems


W. W. Norton

Place Published

New York



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