Poetry | A Farewell to Maggie Durwald


Sarah Cutshall | Visual Editor

Retiring Assistant Opinions Editor Maggie Durwald began working for The Pitt News in the first week of her first year.

By Leah Mensch, Opinions Editor

Listen, the retiring assistant opinions editor

once said to me. 

If Joan Didion thinks so, then so do I. 

So I guess Joan Didion thinks that it’s time for me

to find a new editorial partner.


Snow tumbles outside my window and I 

drink coffee which isn’t decaf but 

might as well be, might as well be nothing

for the bean water doesn’t taste like anything. 


Two years back, more or less 

Maggie Durwald slid an ethics form across 

the table in the conference room and 

hired me, and so came the nights where we

baked cumin cookies subsequent to drinking and drinking

decaf coffee. 


Until I met Maggie, until we were the opinions editors 

I was just a plant in botanical anguish.

And now I am still a plant but

a plant without a friend

a bonsai that’s unclipped, a succulent with water

but no sunshine. Maggie, if we were plants, real plants, 

we would talk to each other. 


But we aren’t plants —

No, we’re people, people with lives to manage and 

cats to feed and decaf coffee to drink and —

With time comes change, the news editor tells me but still

change is tender, change is loud and painful 

like our side of the office cubicle

like our Thursday night staff meetings. 


I peed and peed my pants in my car

writes Ross Gay, in his book of delights.

I don’t know how that’s a delight, 

neither do you, neither do our staff columnists who have

for some reason endured the insanity we brought to staff meetings —

they should put that on their resume.


But here is what I do know:

I thought my biggest fear was a life without cumin but perhaps

I was wrong. If I wrote my own book of delights, which I won’t 

because that would be plagiarism, and yes, I read the ethics form

but still, if I did, it would be a book about working with you. 



Dear Maggie, let me tell you something else

Joan Didion says. She says you have to pick the places

you don’t walk away from. And you might have walked away 

from the office, but you haven’t walked away from me. 


A Pitt News paper rustles outside and I think of how quiet 

I will be in the office without you. Maybe. Either way

there’s a silence, barren, in the absence 

of your editorial remarks.


The hardest thing about losing a lover

writes the poet Anne Carson

is watching the year repeat its days. 


I wonder if Anne Carson

ever lost an editorial partner. 


Send Leah your condolences at [email protected].