Once a month we’re swapping stories and articles with Vancouver literary magazine PRISM International to share our writers with a wider audience.

Last Words of the Old Man with the Photographic Memory

By John Wall Barger

Born with eyes cast wide
as nets, I held earth together
by my total recall.
I suffered nosebleeds.
I had no friends.
I was nine & unprepared
for my sister
her beauty. She is three,
I hold her tiny right hand,
we are crossing
a field. In her left hand
she holds a kite
tall as her. She stops,
mouth open: a deer
at the tree line.
The shoulder of the deer
rotting. A hole
dark & gaping
like some terrible insight.
I run with the string,
I tear her kite.
She sits in tall grass
in her green dress.
She isn’t crying
or smiling, just looking
where the deer was.
Today it is winter,
night, cold on the lino.
Outside, city dogs
freeze. I am the deer.
Again, again
the kite in the sun:
blue light like veins
of the world.

John Wall Barger’s poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English and The Montreal Prize Global Poetry Anthology. His third collection, The Book of Festus (Palimpsest Press), was a finalist for the 2016 J. M. Abraham Poetry Award.

First published in PRISM International 55.1 (Fall 2016)