Stopping by a Body in the Barn Out Back: a poem

Whose body this is I once knew

His rotten stench the scavengers drew

And I recall the tenor of his screams

Rack and ruin a rare privilege to view

He swings on breeze from highest beams

Little wonder if God allows the dead their dreams

I visit this man every day

Death is but a deeper sleep it seems

Oft I wonder what my mother would say

To see father hanged in our barn this way

Would she give thanks or think of me insane

But where he has buried her I cannot say

Our bodies like our love cannot remain

Parables of kindness are profane

And all I have to give to you is pain

And all I have to give to you is pain.


When I was writing GRIND YOUR BONES TO DUST, I took much inspiration from many different sources: Raymond Carver; the Beatitudes and Genesis; THE DIVINE COMEDY; the writings of Carl Panzram; the mostly forgotten humor of Henry Wheeler Shaw (who wrote under the pen name of Josh Billings).

And sometimes, to get in the mood, I’d write from the POV of a character as a way to hone in on the voice. Think of the idea behind method acting but swap out the acting for writing. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost became the framework on which I hung an inner monologue of James Hayte. This was never meant to be published and was, as mentioned, an exercise meant to get into the writerly mindframe.

And though it is a poor pastiche, I still find myself very fond of it. Maybe you will, too.

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