There is a man who writes poems about letters
or poems that are letters from soldiers,
or who writes letters to the soldiers
who die with blank faces.
There is always another
blank-faced boy to forget.
Underneath this poem,
and listening to the man read his poem,
there is a wound
flapped open like a trout’s mouth.
Its tenderness surprises me.
My boy is tender for dead things,
whines for the gone life, lays a leaf over a cricket’s carcass,
talks breath back into things that never were.
Seeing the socket where a fish’s eye had been
at the dinner table,
the hole behind the eye,
I forget the soldier
who was not
a metaphor for loss,
the life behind the poem,
the wound and blank,
all of it—
I fail to remember.
I refuse to touch
another mother’s flickering body
even to warm mine.
Another blank-faced boy
dying, mouth open, still moving
his wasted body, shuddering
like a huddle of velvet ducklings.
From Natalie Graham’s collection, Begin with a Failed Body.