Two years after


Mom. Photo by Callen Harty.

Two years after

Before you were gone you were gone.
Your eyes, already looking toward heaven,
could not look at me and know who I was,
though love still glimmered in those deep
brown orbs.
Before you passed your past was lost.
Memories flickered in and out.
You could not recall who was dead
and who was not, or
where you were or who was there.
Still you sweetly smiled.

Ancestors tiptoed in the dark.
Lost loves snuggled next to you
and sometimes you called to them
even when they were not there.
Your children were with you.
We looked for you and sometimes
could not find you
the blankets that kept you warm
while you floated far above them.
you were not there.

When that moment came,
that awful beautiful final moment
we all resisted for so long,
the mysteries of your life
with you, leaving behind
traces, small sketches, imprints,
all of them abstractions—
as life is—
condensed moments
of love,
and being
no more.

I was not there
when your last breath
whispered your last secrets,
as the mystery of you lay still
beneath the sheets.
A gentle wind blew swiftly past me
as you passed
and I breathed in your last breath.
Now I find it hard to breathe,
to remember you
perfectly in your fullness.
Like you, my memory is fading, too.
It reaches for images lost
like faded photographs
that could never capture your essence.
I cannot capture you now,
but know that there is still love
reflected in my own brown eyes.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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