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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 5, 2015, a series produced by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem 

“The title is a line from Whitman’s ‘Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.’ It is true: my father died the same day as a former student; I perceived them after their deaths. I do not know if it was my need to be comforted—by the dead as much as the living—that brought the poem forward out of the briars, thorning its way.”
James Allen Hall

Out from the Patches of Briars and Blackberries

After he died, my father made
whole, I could see him next
to my mother as she smoked
on the couch, his face more alive
than at Christmas, the last time
I saw him, struggling to lift his cup. 
I knew beyond my body, now he’d died,
he could show off a row of teeth, wry
and silly, smiling again to score
some irony in the situation. But
the days I was home, he didn’t smile. 
My mother was in pain, he was her
source, he grieved alongside her. 
And though he died the same day
as my father, my student waited a week
to show. At first, his back was all
he’d allow, the twist and sweep of curls
that were his character—another boy
Apollo would have loved. He was shy
about his neck. I said please, I needed
to see where he’d been hurt. The purple
pinched and dug at the base
of his throat. He couldn’t say or breathe
what happened but I saw deep in him
the furious glimmer. Our dead return,
wanting us to know there is no end. 

Even suffering outlives this body. 
 

Copyright © 2015 by James Allen Hall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by James Allen Hall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 5, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

James Allen Hall

James Allen Hall

James Allen Hall is the author of Now You’re the Enemy (University of Arkansas Press, 2008). He teaches at Washington College and lives in Kennedyville, Maryland.

by this poet

poem

I burn your Highland Park. I acid your Carnegie
car dealerships. Your Squirrel Hill, sheer terror
in winter. But most of all, I hate your Liberty Avenue,
the last place, one night, I saw my closest friend
saying, Wait here, outside the after-hours club. I wait,
hating your Strip,

poem

Down on Comegys Road, two miles
from the Rifle Club that meets Wednesdays,
summer to fall, firing into a blackness
they call night but I know is a body,
in unpaved Kennedyville, not far
from the Bight, on five acres of green
organic farm, next to the algaed pond
that yields the

poem

We’re not from here. We don’t aria, we warble. 
We wore suits to get here, rumpled by the hot car ride. 
Pumped our own gas. In Heaven two days,

still the custom shirtlessness offends.  Like it’s the g-d
French Rivera. (You say it yours.  We’ll say it the right way.) 
Nor do we au revoir.

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