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Michael Van Walleghen's Poetry

THE AFTERLIFE

Because all of it happens
at the speed of light


the soul naturally lingers
curious, appalled I think


near the impetuous corpse--
and as for all that whispering


from beyond the bright doorway
let them wait. I remember


when I was about ten or so
hitting my head on the ice


then waking up in the hospital
anonymous and all attention


beside a dead man. The man
had a hole in his neck--


I could identify the windpipe
but various other things


were in the dark. His hand
was close to my hand, one foot


hung off the cart--Someone
a name that would come to me


had simply dumped him there
slumped in his tangled IVs


like a let-go puppet. He knew
precisely who I was. The logic


of his bloodshot, puppet eye
was inescapable. The windows


too, were inescapable, black
the coldest dream of winter--


All the rivers were frozen--
trashcans wandered in the street


like tumble weed. A child's name
in fact, might wander years


without a coat out there
without a hat or even socks


and I tried not to think of him
huddled under the overpass


or sleeping in doorways
too cold to speak.