Not on the Last Day, But on the Very Last

Mothers masquerading as witches and sepulchral bellhops who reveal themselves to be fathers: in Justin Boening’s debut collection of poems, selected for the National Poetry Series by Wayne Miller, nothing is as it seems.

Peopled by figures both uncanny and tragic—lionesses who dance and cry, surgeons who carry with them the trauma of past lives, an opera singer whose notes go awry—Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last uses the language of dreams and of fairy tales to deliver a keenly felt exploration of family, grief, regret, and belonging. Here everything stands for something else. But though the Freudian mother and father lurk behind every sequined costume, continue to strip away the masks, Boening suggests, and you’ll find an even more primal absence at the center—Nobody, No One, mortality, death. Beyond that, we find, lies only the truth of our relationships with each other.

Shot through with mournfulness, gorgeously spangled in its language—”a squall of chrysanthemums / and the weird”—Not on the Last Day, but on the Very Last is an unforgettable collection about our human failings and the grace we each seek.

Coming in Fall 2016
Pre-order or learn more at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Milkweed Editions | Indiebound

Selected by

Wayne Miller




As You Left It

It would have been hilarious
had they allowed me to live
forever, paying in divine wisdom
for all my erotic massages,
tipping the jazz quartet
with whatever cocktail coaster
I’d scribbled on the night before,

but it’s even stranger here,
now, feeling the cool air
as the concierge kicks me
through the kitchen’s
steel back doors, the cruise ship
shoving off from the dock
without me, into the moon-
pocked waves, the stubborn mists,
anything as meaningless
and impossible to imagine as us,

and in the end what drives me nuts
is knowing what I never
thought possible—that when
one returns to his body,
his body will be as he left it,
meaning nakedness on a man
is always a comedy—
and wondering not whether
they’ll have me back
but why, and who will be there
waiting to forgive me
for giving up again.