Out from the Patches of Briars and Blackberries
After he died, my father made
whole, I could see him next
to my mother as she smoked
on the couch, his face more alive
than at Christmas, the last time
I saw him, struggling to lift his cup.
I knew beyond my body, now he’d died,
he could show off a row of teeth, wry
and silly, smiling again to score
some irony in the situation. But
the days I was home, he didn’t smile.
My mother was in pain, he was her
source, he grieved alongside her.
And though he died the same day
as my father, my student waited a week
to show. At first, his back was all
he’d allow, the twist and sweep of curls
that were his character—another boy
Apollo would have loved. He was shy
about his neck. I said please, I needed
to see where he’d been hurt. The purple
pinched and dug at the base
of his throat. He couldn’t say or breathe
what happened but I saw deep in him
the furious glimmer. Our dead return,
wanting us to know there is no end.
Even suffering outlives this body.
Copyright © 2015 by James Allen Hall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.