William Brewer is the author of I Know Your Kind (Milkweed Editions, forthcoming 2017), winner of the National Poetry Series, and Oxyana, selected for the Poetry Society of America's 30 and Under Chapbook Fellowship. His poetry has appeared in Boston Review, Kenyon Review Online, Narrative, and other journals. Currently a Wallace Stegner Poetry Fellow at Stanford University, he was born and raised in West Virginia.
Oblivion is liberating.
Our names pissed into piles of coal ash.
The curtains move but there is nothing to move them.
You are gone. I am sure.
On time a train wails toward Pittsburgh, except you do not hear it. Never will again.
There will be no procession. No Adventists on their steps, shaking their heads
in compassion and disdain, no flower wreaths to wrap a room in a perfumed lie.
Our years chew a black tunnel through the mountain.
In this moment of finding you, I do not miss you, which is why I remain
in the absence spun by your denouement.
Curled like a toppled gargoyle.
I wish I could settle on which tense you belong to.
As if it would settle things, cover them like a shroud.
Once as boys we found a snakeskin hanging in the barn rafters and wondered.
Tell me, do pieces of us also get caught on our way to heaven.
A torn t-shirt dangling from your ceiling fan like a cuticle.
No neighbors have risen to their labor yet. Are still citizens of the warm sleep.
Go. Trespass again.
We between the tree line and the valley and the distant smokestack’s aircraft warning beacon beaming red like a check engine light against the dashboard of stars.
You are still here. Each second of late-winter dark is a feather stitching the wings of your ghost.
The coal is almost gone, and soon the mountain tops, and fresh water, after which
this will be the cellar of how many centuries, locked away?
Snow wrapping the hills like caul fat.
Cattle on the hills, drops of soot.
The sky is blind and open for the snow.
In the doorframe of your gray, suffocated lips, I place one final cigarette, ember like a diode on an unset clock, bright in timeless dark.
A paralyzed firefly, a faulty flare.
An offering for the world that promises to take you. It must.
Or else this is not a world.