The National Catholic Review
Barry Ballard

                              i

My father says it’s too late, the cancer
is already inside his body. So
we spend time talking of his childhood,
which is now a vast distance we travel
inside this distance, something measured
as more concrete than the road—or the boat
we pull. It bridges the absence that stood
between us with each narration he tells.

And I tell him, “I can see the benefit
and danger of living like that,” and how
I’m not so entirely modern
as to not envy the bond that exists
in that kind of world, where birth and death plow
their harsh presence into the same plot of land.

                              ii

Sometimes you can hear the moon before it
ever rises, moaning from a recent
conversation with the lapping secrets
of an eastern sea. There’s an absence
of breath in its memory, a vibration
of sound that keeps to itself, like restless
northern winds from the Riphaeus Mountains
caught in the consciousness of life and death.

And there’s something so hollow in the transit,
you can’t help but feel it tugging at the thought
that slipped away, your history of notions
which it gathered in a honeycombed fist
of craters filled with what we’ve been taught,
what we’ve wasted, and what we could have done.

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