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4 Sonnets by Jayson Iwen

Distant Sirens



11


Father, I can see you now,

a thin boy sent out

to call the cattle in from pasture,

the same distant look

on his face, the boy’s face

still there beneath yours,

looking out at his future,

fire flies burning

in the evening’s deepening blue.

You reduced to likeness and kindling,

soon to be ashes of the fire

we call memory.

The cattle stand waiting still

for you to call them home.



13


Love, one day both you and I

will be long dead, names

no one speaks anymore,

what was love’s breath

chiseled then on grave stones

countries apart, like dead tongues

in which lovers once spoke,

in which they acted out

the ancient ceremonies ordained

by what passes for gods on Earth.

Rain will still rain down,

and wind will lash the stones,

and what was you and what was me

will finally be settled.



14


Love, I’ll meet you at the end,

when everything we understand

closes in upon itself

like a stricken man.

Pain focuses the infinite wealth

of any life on a single point,

like the sun summarized

by magnifying glass

onto the back of an unsuspecting

ant. A distant star pins

the eye no less, though painlessly

it toils us to the distance

where we will meet one day

under the last sky.



29


But what will “remain” when I am dead:

a stack of books beside my bed,

my favorite chair before my favorite

window, my last birthday card

from Marlow? How long will light

reveal to human eyes what

once was a living extension of me,

what once soothed the beat of my heart?

Nothing leaves when we leave,

but all remains behind to be

a reminder once we were this way,

passing through to memory.

Even the glaciers themselves betray

all the world is our remains.



Jayson Iwen’s book Roze & Blud won the 2020 Miller Williams Poetry Prize. His other published books are Dick (2021), Gnarly Wounds (2013), A Momentary Jokebook (2008), and Six Trips in Two Directions (2006). His poetry, prose, and translations have appeared in scores of journals, including Cream City Review, New American Writing, Nimrod, Painted Bride Quarterly, Pleiades, Tikkun, Water~Stone Review, and World Literature Today. Jayson lives in Duluth, MN.

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