4 Sonnets by Jayson Iwen
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.
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.
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.
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.