Two Poems by Patrick Carrington


Disease slithered into the orchard like worms
into your apples. Without you to pick them,
they had fallen and decayed. And you
could do nothing but lie and listen
to the heavy thump, thump, thump
as each one smacked the ground,

then wait for the stink. By October
your skin passed yellow,
as if fall had dyed you and the rotted
fruit from the same bottle of iodine.
The doctor did all he could, said
your breath had become God’s business.

I was there for the last windy miracle.
At first frost I poured you,
watched coming winter blow
your ashes to glass across the lake.

Each autumn I come back. The trees
are bare now, done in by moths
and fire blight. The empty branches
ripple across your wet grave
as if leaning closer to your hands,
asking them to rise up through the water
and pluck, while there’s still time

before the freeze. When I lie down
on your bed, I feel my arms
try to lift themselves up
to the trees, my tongue form
the curses you would have spit out
like poison if only yours
would have worked right. Sometimes,
I even hear the thud of those big apples
dropping, one by one by one.


I’ve been on these highways longer
than I care to admit. Years
pull away, more of me disappears
in children’s faces in the back windows
of passing cars. I like to imagine
I can see and hear that part
of me still, that I’m pressed against glass
watching the world speed up
to read the words I trace in the safehouse
of my own breath, that a piece of me
will always be made of backseat laughter,
that I haven’t left too much behind
in towns I watched shrink
in the rearview—and maybe I can, maybe
I am. But this moving from nowhere
to nowhere else makes that person
hard to keep. Something in all of us
loves a road, and who am I
to say what portion of me I can save
or discard. Perhaps the crazy emptiness
of these black roads is all I deserve. And if
I’m quiet and strange, if I hide away
and hoard one or two or three little memories,
it’s because they’re all that I have left—
even a bleak turnpike grants me those. The truth
is I am afraid to grow old,
to come to terms with a boy who grows
more forgettable as he becomes more distant.
I’ve lost a lot, pissed away much more,
but I haven’t yet forfeited the right
to remember, to look for that face
that might turn my weary body toward home.

Patrick Carrington