Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Dear Henry,

Henry Thoreau who has been at his fathers since the death of his brother was ill & threatened with lockjaw! his brothers disease.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
 
Like Achilles smearing his face with soot,
shearing his hair at the news of Patroclus’s death,
you, too, took a step to the world of the dead
when your brother died. Bewildered,
your jaw and limbs stiffened with his.
Then it ended—like floodwaters, it subsided.
You were alive. His memory, a bright
vein of quartz looping through granite,
a glinting diagonal, unsullied and intact
within you. Oblique, flashing—
you leapt
the Emersons’ back stairs, two at a time,
rat-a-tat of a stick on a railing, children
like capes in your wake, you found the first
huckleberries, tamed the woodchuck. Borrowed
the ax, built the cabin, played your brother’s flute.
You drew the oars, then let them go.
Dear invisible, dear true,
with every endeavor, you held him close.
You swallowed the long winter—
and his lost vigor flew through you.

Credit


Copyright © 2018 Catherine Staples. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 2018.

Author


Catherine Staples

Catherine Staples is the author of two poetry collections: The Rattling Window (Ashland Poetry Press, 2013) and Never a Note Forfeit (Seven Kitchens Press, 2011). She is the recipient of the New England Poetry Club’s Daniel Varjouan Award and Southern Poetry Review’s Guy Owen Prize. Staples teaches at Villanova University and lives in Devon, Pennsylvania.

Date Published: 2018-07-01

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/dear-henry