The Last Death

It had all happened before. The coffee cup

with the old ship, steaming on the windowsill.

Their hand-holding at dusk, coyotes barking

in the forest. This was the transfiguration, the last,

the turn. He would not get another turn.

Next time he would be the ancestor, the one

not coming back. This was, he knew,

his last chance to love her. He pressed her hand.

Their story had begun at the beginning.

He was the one with the tendency to cling.

She wandered, overseeing her acres,

returning epochs later, in one form or another.

This time she’d stepped out of the forest

as a woman. He will always try this hard,

she thought. Wrong. Now & never again

he watched her. Their soft table talk, echoing.

I will carry her voice to the next place,

he thought. But of course he could not.

Already the sirens were singing in the forest,

their lyrics smothered by the wind.

That night he removed his clothing & rings

& her flame like an amulet at his neck

& followed the melody into the shadows.

John Wall Barger’s second collection of poems, Hummingbird, will be published by Palimpsest Press this spring. Other new poems of his are forthcoming in Arc Poetry Magazine, The Fiddlehead, The Cincinnati Review, and The Montreal Prize Global Poetry Anthology (Véhicule Press).