THE OBITUARIST’S COMMUTE
He’d like to present the commonplace things
that the bereaved are wont to palpate gingerly:
her bone-white cup, jagged from long use,
the kitchen chair, wood-grained, like a tree
reduced to a stump without his body
to crown it, that stretch of road avoided now—
that’s where the names belong,
between the mile markers delineating
his newsprint. He’s reduced to using words,
so the ideas of the dead he proffers are frail,
flimsy affairs like ephemeral paper,
peregrine and windblown sheets
of untouched and etherized skin that never settle,
never drape themselves over the hard shapes
of the world where survivors probe their relics.
Sometimes, though, he thinks this day
scrolling between bed and desk will be
when he succeeds, a hope tenable only here,
this sunny interregnum, an arrival rustling the air
like the memory of loved hair, rust moving in millipedes
along the steel roofbeams, a hope of alighting,
of creased and wounded texture descending—
it’s his train. The notebook closes with a snap.
He rises from the bench. The silence of the dead
is imperious as the strutting pigeons,
and every surface is lined with plastic spikes.
Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler is a poet and translator best known for his English renderings of prose by great contemporary Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan with co-translator Reilly Costigan-Humes, which have received positive reviews from the Times Literary Supplement, the New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. His poetry and translations have appeared in journals including Coldnoon, The Missing Slate, and Two Lines. He lives in Bennington, Vermont.