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William J. Neumire: Three Poems
Divination | Begat | Disuse


The German coins my grandfather gave me,
Which he had saved after the war in a shoebox
That has since eroded into the backyard.

The shattering of his face—like the plastic soldiers
We ravaged with b.b.'s—when he found out
I had converted them into two dollars
And spent them on candy.

The way he'd forgotten that children sometimes
Do not know the world of war—the world of keeping
And saving for the sake of keeping and saving.

Perhaps today I could have rubbed those
Tarnished coins in my palms like a diviner
Trying to bring back his voice and absolution.

Perhaps somehow their metallic aura
Could have saved him from Leukemia,
From the cold, from my grandmother's shaking hands.

He'd offered me so much silence before
That I almost didn't know when he'd died,
Or that the war was ever over.

I almost couldn't tell—until I felt the need
For the missing—that even as a child
I had sold the world to the enemy.


Son of a manual laborer.
Son of a man who has
Sucked salt from the earth
And handed it to kitchen tables.
Son of a man whose hands
Are marred with burrows and scars.
Son of a woman who saw a man
Before he was a man
Of minerals, and married him.
Son of a woman who never told
Me she was a feminist.
Son of a man whose ancestors
Carved brief epitaphs.
Son of a woman whose eyes
Have marauded the world
Like a burglars', pricing the landscape.
Son of a man who sits at a lake
Outside a factory
And observes his right to wet boots.
Son of a man who can see the factory
For its thin tin walls and leaves it
At shore each night begging for a wave.
Son of a woman who carries the voice
Of a man in her memory like a wallet
In a pocketbook. Son of a woman who
Covers her schools of thought
With chicken dinners and the
Enjoyment of good weather and long
Barbeques. Son of a man who might
Never read this. Son of a man
Who might never reconcile all the years
He's lost like those we lose to sleep.
Son of a woman who loves a man
Without penance, who knows that nothing
Has to be reconciled in a world
Where the swing of a father's
Cumbersome arms over his child's body
Sheds more thrill over the earth
Than unexpected sunlight.


Dust bracelets the tables, and the doors
Swell with heat until they can't close.
Even the voice of the house—the way
Wind angles through openings, the creak
Of floorboards—it's all different.

And outside the season's last flock
Of geese release the dark branches
Of a naked maple.

All of it looks like leaving—
An unchecked storm brewing
In the marrow.

Perhaps there is a wordless regret
In the egress of wings from a still tree:

That regardless of the promise
There is no way to keep dark
The branches, to keep thick the trunk,
To keep steady the tilted nest
Of string and straw.

Poet's Biography:
  William Neumire's poetry has previously appeared or is forthcoming in the Adirondack Review, Zuzu's Petals, Blue Mesa Review, Poetry Midwest and Melange. He writes book reviews for The Cortland Review, where he is on staff. He teaches daycare, lives with his fiancee, and scrapes time out of the day for reading and writing.

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