Carlos Andrés Gómez: “Poem about Death Ending with Reincarnation”

Poem about Death Ending with Reincarnation

———-after Matthew Olzmann & Tarfia Faizullah

Blood has its own democracy.
My father & I puncture steaks
& watch them ooze—deep maple
walls eavesdrop as steel teeth

scrape & claw the porcelain
we use to distract our manically
clenching jaws. I’m well-practiced
in this ritual: empty & fill, empty

& fill, until there’s nothing.
Our filets gone, we sit & stare
at the eggshell table spread,
abdomens swelling like silence—

They found a mass.
She’s having surgery next week.
I had always planned for him
to be first. Now the woman

fifteen years his junior, mother
to my twin baby siblings, is dying
or might be. I’ve been rehearsing
years for this talk, except it isn’t—

my father, held only by the dim
lighting that shrouds his silhouette,
reduced to heaving. I envision
the stepmom it took me eleven years

to embrace being lowered carefully
into the damp earth, an old man,
flanked by two teenagers, watching,
& I will be there too: an overcast

Tuesday that no one passing by
will remember, & as usual, I won’t
be able to get the dimple right
in my tie. For a second, although

we are nowhere near the mountains,
I will smell the crisp air she so
loved & remember the first time
we walked without the heaviness

of that first encounter both of us
carried for far too long. But on that
unremarkable day for most, a light
rain will interrupt the hike I am on

in my mind, a man will read overlyrehearsed
words from a book she
did not believe in, & we will stand
like guards, numb. We will watch over

the sacred earth she spent an entire
lifetime trying to protect, now her
home, flanked by roots cross-stitching
the rich soil, what becomes the promise

kept to those endless rows of buds
ready to push through & that twisted
symmetry just above, a dangled blade
from a mouth chewing in first light.


Carlos Andrés Gómez is a Colombian American poet and the author of Hijito, winner of the Broken River Prize. His writing has been published in the New England Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. Carlos is a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

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