Poetry by Clint Margrave

Hearing Loss

For some, it is age-related.
Others are born with it. 
Still, there are those for whom hearing loss
is caused by a sudden traumatic break—

that if damaging enough,
can be permanent;
if damaging enough, can puncture
the receptors that control the level at which we hear things:

the receptors that make words distinguishable,
allow past and present voices to meet,
leave traces in the message centers of our brains,
where time holds a vigil,

where memories plot their exits,
where the living must speak loud enough
so the dead do not
impair us.

Originally published in Spot Magazine and The Early Death of Men (NYQ Books 2012)

My Father’s Brain

I’m looking at my father’s brain.  

My sister and I found it
stuffed in an envelope
in my parents’ garage
Only weeks before,
it had been alive,
now it was here, 
stacked in this box, 
with all the other
stuff we don’t know
what to do with. 
“That’s the frontal lobe,”  my sister says,
picking it up
and turning it around
to show me.

“Can I keep it?” I say, 
lifting it into the sun
for a better glimpse.  

“Do whatever you want with it,” 
my sister tells me. “It’s yours.”

Originally published in Spot Magazine and The Early Death of Men (NYQ Books 2012)

Alternate Endings

When your sister told you to put socks on your
hands so the monkey bars wouldn’t
hurt them, you didn’t listen and never
fell and broke your wrist. The night at the mall
when those skinheads kicked your ass,
you at least tried to hit one of them back.
You never smoked a cigarette. And as a freshman
in high school when you saw Jane’s Addiction
with those senior Goth chicks whose names you forget,
you never sat a space apart from them
and they never teased you for it. You went
to The Cure concert and not your junior prom.
You saw the car coming before you made
the left turn. Instead of throwing your crutches
at that taxi driver, you asked him for a ride home.
You never married a woman you didn’t know,
and never wasted Paris on an ex-girlfriend.
The night you got your DUI you let Dennis drive.
And in the hospital, when your father
was dying, you demanded they move him
to intensive care. Instead of saying no, 
you agreed to an autopsy and spared
you, your mother, and your sisters
six years of wanting to know. You went
and saw a therapist before you ever
had a meltdown. Every decision you’ve
made has been sensible. Your life
is perfect and boring. You never
even wrote this poem.

Originally published in Quincunx (Tangerine Press) and Salute the Wreckage (NYQ Books 2016)



In a dream I have, 
my father’s
the one that drives away, 
leaving the rest of us
in the cemetery.  

Originally published in the anthology At the Gate: Arrivals and Departures (Kings Estate Press) and Salute the Wreckage (NYQ Books 2016)



In today’s paper, 
I read an article on the SETI project
headed up by Jill Tarter
the woman on whom
Carl Sagan based his novel Contact.    

When we had begun
to pack up my parents’ house
and I was deciding what to take of my father’s, 
the first thing I grabbed was his collection
of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos DVDs, 
which I remembered watching on television
with him as a child. 

There was also the DVD for
the movie version of Contact
as well as Sagan’s last book, 
Billions and Billions,
which I had given him
for his birthday one year.  

That very first Saturday
after he died, I stayed in bed
and watched Contact
which in one scene
describes a meeting with an extraterrestrial
disguised as the main character’s
dead dad.

Later in the article,
the journalist quotes Sagan
on his impetus
to write that scene,
“I always wanted to have
one more conversation
with my father.”

Originally published in Salute the Wreckage (NYQ Books 2016)

The Night Before He Died

My father yanked out his
oxygen tube, 

and asked me what happened
to the sunshine.

Originally published in Spillway and Salute the Wreckage (NYQ Books 2016)

Clint Margrave is the author of Salute the Wreckage (2016) and The Early Death of Men (2012), both published by NYQ Books. His stories and poems have also appeared in The New York Quarterly, Rattle, Cimarron Review, Word Riot, 3AM, Bartleby Snopes, decomP, Ambit (UK), as well as in the recent LA Fiction Anthology: Southland Stories by Southland Writers by Red Hen Press. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.


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