December 12, 2016

John Guzlowski

DEATH AND POETRY

Somewhere there are shadows,
My mother in a doorway, my father
Standing by a fence. You must have
Your own shadows. The dead in one
Another’s arms. The black hearse.
Someone you love behind the curtains.

I remember Abbott and Costello,
Two dead comedians, joking about curtains:
“It’s curtains for me, curtains for you,”
Then the curtains part and the killer
Appears and says, “Slowly I turn,”
But it’s never slowly enough,

And suddenly you’re there
With your own dead and your own
Dying, and nothing feels closer to you
Than the wow moment when you won’t
Be you but some scattered, tattered
Discombobulation of purposeless ions,

The dust that suddenly is last week’s lunch
And this week’s memories of everything
That will not last, and you’re not laughing
Although you once did at Abbott and Costello
Or maybe it was the Three Stooges grinding
On about how slowly death comes.

Less carriage ride than bullet, it’s here now
And all of these words are so purposeless
That it’s a good thing I’m writing all of this
Down now because if I were to wait
Until the moment of my own death
I would just wave these words away.

from Rattle #53, Fall 2016

[download audio]

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John Guzlowski: “For most of my writing life, I’ve concentrated on my parents’ experiences in WWII. They were both prisoners in German concentration camps, a brutal experience that never left them. Their story, I felt, had to be told. Two years ago, I finished what I feel is probably my last book of poems about them. Since then, I’ve been writing more about myself, my experiences, the things that shaped me. It’s the only story I have left to tell.” (link)