for Vic Chesnutt
Whether we will their return or not
the dead keep coming back to us:
in our sleep, when we slip to resist,
in books, and in song, when the voice
shuffles forward to call “I’m still alive /
I win the prize / I’m still alive,”
even though he’s not, even though he knew
that his song some day would prove
false, a sometime untrue statement
that no one, not even a ghost,
can retract. Instead, those of us left
are left to notice, and miss, and hurt.
How thin is the human voice,
it cannot keep even the dead
distant, on the other side of any
thing we would call any thing.
Brian Henry is the author of ten books of poetry, most recently Brother No One (Salt Publishing, 2013). His translation of Aleš Šteger’s The Book of Things appeared from BOA Editions in 2010 and won the 2011 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry. He has received numerous awards for his work, including fellowships from the NEA, the Howard Foundation, and the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Portrait of Brian Henry courtesy Susan Worsham
Front-page photo courtesy Allison Nadding