Joel Hayward May 2017
I carried something deep inside
my pocket like Frodo's ring

with the cruel gravity of Jupiter making every step beside you a slog through Russian snow

I never told you

I couldn't bear the thought
you wouldn't fight

and oh how valiant you were!

Even that French emperor that I have in pewter in a box in storage

would have thumped you on the shoulder

Oh tu as un cœur de lion!

yet a lion had already clamped its teeth into your shoulder

such pain

and you fought impossibly

until you finally fell into that shadowy shaft without knowing that I had carried a secret for eighteen months

that you, mon brave soldat, had only six months to live
Joel Hayward May 2017
A shofar blown in an empty synagogue

— a pursed squeeze of ethereal meaningless

is the sound of my abject failure to pull her back onto the boat

A choking cough in the dawn adhan reminds me of those gasps

the sinking and the stillness
and the defeat of my best intentions

regrets climbing atop
most things when I pray

blocking the sun as they stretch and writhe

but cold prayers are better than none and those moments pressed flat

fill my empty flask with the warmest of things
Joel Hayward May 2017
We can't take a thing on our tumbling rabbit hole trip into the opulence of recompense

Even our book of deeds exists there before a warm breeze lifts on that great day of winnowing

Yet you lie like Moses in a willow basket in the depths of the earth in that dress that made you look slimmer

Your nails are the blood of the Nile during that failed first plague and your eyeliner sits like Pharaoh's kohl

Nothing matters but what is written and the grace of the all graceful

yet a constellation of young stars
sit on your ring finger

and above your heart the name of Allah glows yellow from a pendant like the oil lamp of a lighthouse
Joel Hayward May 2017
I gulped to inhale her soul
as she sighed while it spilled

as the blood of birth

and I cried at the absence of her future

I reached to catch it before it slipped away
but these sin-slick hands couldn't grip such purity

What would I have done with it anyway?
Kept it like a genie to uncork whenever regrets weighed most?
Whenever my shame crept out?

It escaped faster than I had imagined
though no feather fell
or flutter caught my eye

into a spinning growing void in which only one word is ever said
and always in a whisper
Joel Hayward May 2017
You smile in a picture on a shelf
and whenever I pass I greet you

as a boy passing the waiting dog
that Dad had said he couldn't play with
until after homework

I salute you with a sigh that climbs a long ladder from a deep pain

though the Lord of all worlds
had slammed shut in my face that most unlovely door

leaving you in pearlescent light and me inside the shadows of a willow weeping

An eyebrow arches to hold aloft your eyes like Chinese lanterns glowing as they drift away
soon to fall

And no one but me will know
that I'd taken that photo on the very day
your left lung collapsed

cancer clutching like coal in a cave
Joel Hayward May 2017
Everything is out of place

a curiously dead wife on anyone's bed in a city long forgotten

her soul departing from an old people's home

lip hanging lower than it used to

new running shoes in the corner

disposable nappies next to a bra on an unused food tray

eyeliner on eyes that hadn't opened for days

cold skin in a room into which the sun streamed

morphine flowing through a tube into a life that had left

devotion from such an imperfect husband

who knew she'd hate her hair like that and stroked her fringe back into place
Joel Hayward May 2017
From your bed in the ward you saw a modest ribbon of pale sky through a window that could open only slightly, like your eyes

a high sky as achingly thin as the skin of your arms bruised like rain clouds

Yellowy eyes revealed what lips never uttered

a beaten acceptance that the sky will exist long after you do not

and your eyes fell on me like a child rushing for a tight hug

and mine swept you up like a father who'd failed to stop you tripping

Oh you patient soul who had never asked for more or complained of less

that same sky will also stretch above my grave

but until I fall into shadows I'll never forget you

an easy companion who said little during drives and nothing during pain
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