“Autumn Elegy” by Tyler Mortensen-Hayes

Tyler Mortensen-Hayes


I hold the pen & notepad, raised
to each other, but not touching.
Outside, the air thickens with
cold. Wind lifts the stiffened branches

of the apricot, wiping away
a few more of its leaves.
This is the shallow entrance
to winter, when sunflowers shrivel

like the faces of dead animals
on the roadside; when the earth
slows its breathing
& everything sinks into the long,

gray sleep. There was another murder
last night—another man, like me—
wide meadows of lives closed
by his gun. I am trying to write,

trying to do what I am able.
I sit in the warm house while everywhere
flowers wilt into nothing. Soil hardens
to ice & nothing gets in

or out. The apricot tree falls
to pieces around itself—
shriveled stones of fruit
thud below, & are buried,

by the snow.

from Rattle #66, Winter 2019


Tyler Mortensen-Hayes: “I read recently that 39 U.S. states require their schools to hold regular active shooter drills. Imagine that. A country where we have to prepare our children for mass violence as if it were a fire, or an earthquake—unpredictable, unfathomable, yet entirely feasible. As if it comes from out of the very ground on which we raise them to walk.”

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