by Maura MacNeil

Drawing by Haley Greenyer
Drawing by Haley Greenyer

In the time my husband
lay dying in our bedroom
I was listening to Cash’s song Hurt
on headphones in the next room
when I felt an unutterable strangeness
as the song ended that made me
take the headphones off
in order to shake off a feeling
I can only describe as a stranger
lurking in the house.

This is what the stranger instructed:
focus, inhale, exhale, one-two-push-push
and I couldn’t
because I couldn’t
bring my husband back
because he was determined
to leave, refusing my call—
his eyes the milky light of midnight,
eyes layered with sleep,
watery and sealing over,
looked past my face to a dream
I could not follow,
could not see.


Maura MacNeil is the founder of off the margins, a website that features writing and reflection on the life of an artist from women who “fearlessly tell the truth and risk vulnerability to give voice to their experience.” She earned her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College and her poetry, prose, and critical writing has been published and anthologized in numerous publications over the past three decades. Current projects include a mixed-genre memoir titled Sugar and a poetry project titled Bodyland. She is a professor of creative writing and also serves as the director of the MA in Professional Writing program at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire.

Haley Greenyer graduated with the Class of 2015 from Conval High School in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She was a member of the chemistry club, participating in the New Hampshire State Science Fair, placing first in biochemistry in 2013 and first in electronics and physics in 2014. She also enjoys playing the piano, singing, reading, drawing and painting. She received special recognition two years in a row in the Congressional Art Competition in New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District. Haley attends the University of Vermont in Burlington, where she majors in engineering.