Wagoner’s “The Name”

My favorite section of Wagoner’s After the Point of No Return is the last one where he writes about old age and death in fourteen different poems, many of them quite funny like one called “A Cold Call” where the author is called by Holly “from the cemetery,” a common event for those of us receiving Social Security here in America.

I liked all of them, because, unfortunately, they reminded me of some of my own thoughts about aging and losing friends rapidly. In the end, though, my favorite was a slightly different one


When a man or a woman died, something of theirs,
some token—a beaded belt, a pair of moccasins,
a necklace—would be left beside the path
where a hunting party, returning, would see it
and know that name was dead now.
They would remember how to say it,
but not at the campfire, not in stories,
not whispered in the night to anyone else,
but only to themselves.
Then, after years, when the right one had been born,
they would hold that child above the earth
to the four directions and speak the name again.

that wasn’t comedic, but best reflected my own feelings about death and how I’d like to be remembered.

I’d suggest leaving my Canon EOS1 D MARK IV on the trail after I die, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t stay there long enough to let my friends know I’d finally caught up with Skye and would no longer be haunting these trails.

The poem strikes a nice balance between somber and sentimental. We all want to be remembered, and what better way than having “the right one” bearing our name into the future.

Though I preferred some of Wagoner’s early book, this is an enjoyable read.

2 thoughts on “Wagoner’s “The Name””

  1. I never think much about being remembered, probably because I think so little about the dead. I do pray for my family and friends who have died, but don’t really spend much time thinking about their lives, at least after a period of grief. When I’m gone, people will probably spend that much time thinking about my life. I think about my soul and what lies ahead after this life.

  2. I’ll have to admit I don’t think very much about the dead, either, but I do think I guide my actions by the way I want myself and others to see me. In that sense, I’m sure I want to be remembered, if I’m remembered at all, in a certain way.

Comments are closed.