“In Diminuendo” by Richard Fenwick

Richard Fenwick


My brother’s last word
was a cough, a type of struggle
to tell his wife one lasting,
proper thing that she might hold.

Maybe he wanted to say how
he loved the way she laughed,
or perhaps he desired to confess
that one night, after they wed,

he’d slid into their bedroom
to listen to her sleep, how strong
it made him feel to draw
inside him all of her sounds,

so clean, that sort of sleep
that dissolves only to songbirds,
early mornings when the sun
casts but a hint across the sky.

My brother’s last word
was a cough, and that is all.
Yet within it was the gift
of his giving, which I choose:

how September relinquishes
to fall and berries, how summer
glides down, in diminuendo,
into the lower moans of winter.

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015

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Richard Fenwick: “I work with Holocaust survivors, so I attend an inordinate number of funerals here in Tucson. At a recent funeral I watched wisps of clouds tatter the blue sky as a tumbleweed bounded over the cemetery until it disappeared into an arroyo. A poem later emerged that fused these images to the funeral. This is why I write poetry: searching for metaphor that might make sense of the senseless.” (website)

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