The 2River View 16.1 (Fall 2011)

John Harvey

Clatter of Dry, Black Wings

I sit for an hour or more in a little light, a little dark. My father's here.
Next minute there's no one at all. The world rocks back and forth
inside his eyes. A photo album

confides he's losing his sight, forgetting who I am. Light reveals
all seams. Skin round his eyes sinks into bone, the back of his head
collapses under a few

strands of hair. My father asks if I remember boiled cabbage,
his mom in bedroom light. He can't find her yet knows she's here.
I walk the house picking-up

what he's lost. I can hear a beetle somewhere in the house—
clatter of dry, black wings. TV images flicker across my father's
neck, empty sleeve.

Outside the sun makes landfall. I ask, what hurts? What do you want
me to do? Eyes focus, lips part, and for a moment someone is there.
I hold his face.

Tight Knots And Family Bonds

Grave numbers refer to grave cuts. The groundskeeper smiles
and tells me more than one body sleeps in a hole.
Families drink their own bones.
My grandparents buried their tongues in lost friends

before they died, then dug a room in flat, dark cares.
Cremations are common, just like thin soup.
Each year new burials shovel out a meager gruel.
Stir bruises. I stomp my legs warm, kick off a few cold

raindrops as my arms swing through a blur of oak leaves.
This cemetery shoulders its way into the sea.
Above, the sky swallows her son; below, I root out
my father's mother lying in a hospital room, screaming

as her blood eats away her veins. A fumbling, red muscle
aches with its own poison. It's anyone's guess
how they build a city of the dead.
Maybe dumb words bleached white and a pile of slag.

John Harvey directs the Center for Creative Work at The Honors College, University of Houston. He is Resident Playwright for Mildred's Umbrella Theater Company. His poems have been published in Gulf Coast, NAP, Poet Lore, and Whiskey Island. contact