He mouths a left-over thigh,
whines a new path in the grass, tries
to tell himself about bone, tongue-licking
the marrow to taste of the once-living.
I did not know his jaws would open-close
five times, miming news so old, nerves quiver

to announce the victim is dead. For now, he is
young, lapping each moment without fear.
By evening, forgets the burial bone, runs the street.
Shadow of metal falls, a stranger summons me,
the undertaker, for blood, warm in cupped-hands.

Jaws open-close five times, as if miming something
in stunned silence of the brain, needing neither Plato
nor the gut-reaction of a worm to know death dissolves
even bone when sun-moon have bared themselves,
to turn love to dust. I carried his dried blood on boots
until cells turned as brown as leather which encased
my feet– two museum mummies whose speech

is frozen on wrappers in glyphs I cannot read
to save myself from the same task of scribing death.
Jaws open-close five times as if miming something
between brothers of different blood codes–
to confound Morse in a dot-dash world, the way death
taps the shoulder to inform us finally, we have both
moved in the length of one day beyond all language.

Selected byJordan Trethewey
Image credit:Tadeusz Lakota

Doug Flaherty has published in the New Yorker, The Nation, North American Review, and scores of others. Doug has published five full-length books and six chapbooks. Work has appeared a dozen anthologies.

 

Flaherty has read at thirty universities. He received the MFA  from the Iowa Writers Workshop. He has an MA from the University of Mass-Amherst. Doug grew up in Lowell, Mass. He taught poetry and American Literature for thirty-five years at the University of Wisconsin--Oshkosh.