“The Kneeling Man” by Dennis Finnell

Dennis Finnell


Things are pretty much status quo
here. We are well, just as oddly
off-hand and anxious as ever. We think
of ourselves as special dark chocolate
with a secret ingredient, white pepper.
We no longer have a cat—nor
does she have us. At the end
she lay under the Christmas tree
like a toy, and breathed fast,
consciously. We couldn’t let her
suffer more, or us, or the world.
It’s autumn and the maples
know more than we do about winter,
trying to both mislead her
by turning orange and yellow like
a squid, then dropping everything
and going naked. Then the sap
of their souls migrates into dirt,
reborn as the makings of sweetness,
the makings of belief, great
on pancakes. We want to tell you
about the kneeling man
at the entrance to Kroeger’s,
a cardboard sign hanging around
his neck, illegible words
bending his neck, his face—
what some might call “physiognomy”—
legible. We had our week’s
groceries safe in the trunk and drove
by him, telling each other
Don’t make eye contact, because
it’s the first step toward what,
money, love? Now home I feel sick like
I’ve eaten something wrong
like a baby, just because some of us
don’t risk being fooled
but this is all moot, that guy
must be gone now that it’s dark
out there, but he is out there
somewhere trying to earn an earthly
indulgence climbing the stairs
of a human spine on his knees.

from Rattle #50, Winter 2015


Dennis Finnell: “As far as a reason for writing poems, I’ve forgotten why I do, and I’m not being too glib. I’ve been at this for so long now so it’s more of a habit than anything, and I think a good one. Good in the sense of feeling alive when I’m working at writing, and it is work.”

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