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Michael Van Walleghen's Poetry

THE AFTERLIFE

Because all of it happens
at the speed of light

 

the soul naturally lingers
curious, appalled I think

 

near the impetuous corpse--
and as for all that whispering

 

from beyond the bright doorway
let them wait. I remember

 

when I was about ten or so
hitting my head on the ice

 

then waking up in the hospital
anonymous and all attention

 

beside a dead man. The man
had a hole in his neck--

 

I could identify the windpipe
but various other things

 

were in the dark. His hand
was close to my hand, one foot

 

hung off the cart--Someone
a name that would come to me

 

had simply dumped him there
slumped in his tangled IVs

 

like a let-go puppet. He knew
precisely who I was. The logic

 

of his bloodshot, puppet eye
was inescapable. The windows

 

too, were inescapable, black
the coldest dream of winter--

 

All the rivers were frozen--
trashcans wandered in the street

 

like tumble weed. A child's name
in fact, might wander years

 

without a coat out there
without a hat or even socks

 

and I tried not to think of him
huddled under the overpass

 

or sleeping in doorways
too cold to speak.