Poetry by Brendan Walsh

Death Poem Attempt Four
                        Allan L.

You’ve tried so many times
to write the death you wrapped
in your arms in late July,
two-thousand ten,
when the old man collapsed
and you held him
with concrete palms—
his sweaty head pendulous
above the workshop floor,
eyes milk-filmy and dead,
obviously dead.  
His body too weathered
to even be called meat
but a bone-shard
slacking between the floor,
your arms.  

You tried soliloquies,
elegies,
his voice,
his wife coughing his name.  
You tried
embedding the image of his eyes
in a line about knowing death,
described it as haunting,
a lie.

Most days, consumed by living,
you forget
how the Quikrete mixed well all morning;
filling cracks in that walkway
was meditation.

You forget
that you heard her voice
struggling for volume
a minute before you rose,
ran over,
found him face down and she
unable to turn him.  
Forehead gashed.
Chest flat, silent.

Forget the guilt
of one minute wasted in solitude.  
Old men die.  
Old men die.

Once, you wondered
how life leaves a body
so quickly.  
Wasn’t he there
the second before falling;
didn’t he tell you to patch up the walk
and pull the weeds
two hours before his skull
melted in your fingers?  

You never know
how to end it—
you love endings that bloom,
fall, become the ground.  
Here you are,
struggling to learn.
There aren’t endings,
just a blind push forward—
leaving things behind.

 

To Love Someone Before You Know Them
                        Barbara Mitchell (12/14/14)

I could have forgotten everything,
emptied myself until I was skinboneblood:
the brain gone, heart dead, eyes hollow,

not a twitch of muscle or digestion,
just that shell carried through the world,
and you would have loved me.

I could have been a twist of DNA
in a petri dish, a still-life fetus in a jar,
but you learned love before it was taught—

and you taught it before books.
I could have been an idea (I was), wrapped
in umbilical cord, before you’d seen

how the blood purpled my body,
and you would have loved me.  
I could have been awful (I was), lying

to women, drinking to stupidity,
fearing deaths—all of them,
and you would have loved me.

What else could remain
when you are a body retreating
and air strips your gray-splotched shell?

Buried, burying you now, you are
emptied of everything but love.

 

in the tuesday halflight w/out forgetting

everything I have is yours
three-tiered shower curtain
desk
drawers
silverware
the white plates
red-handled pan
the absence everywhere
one-half of the mirror
dim Sunday nights—
that emptyhour between
beer & bed—
this hollowchest is yours
the bottle of Witch Hazel
two mugs I gifted you
this state this beach
my burntface on the pillow
the pillow
everything I have is yours
come take it back

 

Gravy 2016, after Carver
                     for Mukethe

I’m not dying, though
the past week, once we both knew
you were leaving,
I caved in, sun stopped
beating—until you missed your train
twice, stayed three more days,
we stood in rivers circled by ducklings
their helicopter mom vigilant
at our mirrored thighs; drove to Rhode Island,
drank too much and made love over&over
again; stood on a Thimble Island rock
lumped out of the Long Island Sound,
swam together, ate burnt salmon,
loved as we always have loved,
that is truly, that is only—
pure gravy, these past three days,
seventy-two hours more than we
or anyone expected. Just Gravy.
And don’t forget it.
 

Brendan Walsh has lived and taught in South Korea, Laos, and South Florida. His work appears in Glass Poetry, Wisconsin Review, Mudfish, Lines + Stars, and other journals. He is the author of Make Anything Whole (Five Oaks) and Go (Aldrich). His chapbook, Buddha vs. Bonobo, is forthcoming from Sutra Press. He’s online at www.brendanwalshpoetry.com.