22 pages 44 minutes read

Martha Collins

Again Later

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 2020

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A Portrait of Denial, Repetition, and Grief

In “Again Later,” Collins turns a phone company’s intercept message into a song of denial. The beginning, middle, and end of the poem all find the speaker “not accepting” her husband’s death (Lines 1-2, 8-9, 14). As many psychologists affirm, denial is a part of grief. And denial is at the core of this poem.

The speaker’s denial is, however, not perfect. “Is not” repeats four times in the poem (twice on Lines 2, 5, 9). That’s once more than “not accepting” (Lines 2, 9, 14). Thus, the speaker seems to know that her husband “is not,” and no matter how many times she dials his old numbers, she will not hear his voice, she will only hear the intercept messages.

Grief is often experienced as a cycle, with recurring emotions and images (Hentz, Patricia. “The Body Remembers: Grieving and a Circle of Time.” Qualitative Health Research, vol. 12, no. 2, 2002, pp. 161-72. PubMed, doi:10.1177/104973202129119810). That means that grief—like the intercept messages and like the poem—repeats. By cutting up and rearranging a pre-recorded message, Collins has created a deft and accurate portrait of grief.