Gabriel Welsch


On the Day A Local Philanthropist Dies

 

                                               Anthony Carbajal

                                               Anthony Carbajal

I held my daughter’s hair in my fist this evening,

taking from it the fabric band twisted at the root

of her ponytail, and pulling, heard the soft tear

of fine hairs breaking, a violence only the silence

let me know. I lay her down, to let her sleep,

give her to darkness, in the confidence

that she will wake.

 

I am only aware of the leap of that faith

from reading of a family murdered somewhere

in the Heartland, decades ago, and the killers

just this month died in prison, their last

breaths filling the sails of a ship

that cuts through heaving waves

in the wilds where the world

ends. And tomorrow, a stroke

 

will hijack the brain of a man

beloved through these mountains and towns,

a village will mourn the freshest loss

of faith in time, his friends, the men

who run the town, lifting fists

of whisky in the wake of his passing

will question the night until the next day

 

when the sun rises like a baffle,

its heat a new smoke, and we again

will let it fill our eyes with warmth

and faith that it will always rise. 


Mortal Absurd

 

The day I see my blood

pressure spike to a tingling height

 

after a tight walk with my daughters,
 

I record what I want to remember:

 

The well-kept lure of other lives.
 

The cries of my children, arms upraised.

 

Tired, joyous eyes of my wife.
 

What we sacrifice for calm.

 

Melon flower, the pugnacious sun, the wilt
 

                                                of evening unmolested by heat,
 

scabbed fruit, the drowning hues of May,
 

                                                the unexpected, teeth bold as ice.


Still Life Smeared on a Canvas of Ubiquitous War

 

Kitchen counter, standing slicing fontina in Triscuit-sized tombstones

And mouthing a pinot noir—a cheap one, mass-barreled,

probably from Australia, heaved statesward on a freighter

operating under the benevolent eye in what we think is an American sky

And my daughter is watching Chloe’s Closet on the digital cable channel reserved

            entirely for the preoccupations of toddlers, made possible

by a conspiracy of satellites,

And I wax and wane in a confused orbital about leftovers, the homemade

sesame noodles and week-old mac-and-cheese (Ina Garten recipe)

the kids love but grow weary of night after discombobulated

night of dance classes and gymnastics and SAT prep

And just today I have read some belle lettres essay about still lifes

as representations of affluence, how life

is not even the first part of it, that the images of the rare

            and the precious telegraph a mercantile virtue that curdles

And shimmers in the plundered petroleum firelight in a manner most

            unfortunate with the flatly descendant class of the naissance de siècle

            fighting the stormtroopers of tax-exemption and their catapulting

            invective and the their duping of the very poor they so loathe

            who urge their purchased representatives to shut down the government

And shambling in swinging rips an idea about the predictability of ire:

            always a fresh harvest here, where the comments troll revolution

as if it’s a word new to us and not a staple of geography

in the ancient cities on the Mediterranean

or in the Crimea or the steamy Pacific archipelagos

or the former empires of what we renamed the Americas,

and the harvest of ire swells in bushels manufactured

in every cycle of rancor online and muted in the dying

newsweeklies and opinion pages of near-extinct newsprint

And the thought bubble yet unpainted here is that while I had my hair cut

earlier that day, I overheard a man talking

who lives over a barber shop across from All American Pizza,

in a downtown scaled with fading yellow ribbons,

about how he puts up flyers for the American Legion,

where the girl who cuts my hair tends bar,

and who lost a boyfriend near Falluja to an IED, an acronym

out of its awkward need for a gloss and now at middle age,

not yet a venerable word like SCUBA or RADAR or AWOL,

And that man is smoke and flannel and jeans and the focused pot belly

            of a working man who drinks, talks to my barber about

            a couple working on their wedding dance

            like the ones they see on YouTube,

            where every bride shows a shoulder tattoo

and the groomsmen dress blues

And in the near future that I do not see is a new car, unexpectedly American

and a family trip to a sanitized harbor where the national anthem

flared into being, an east coast city that imports yuppies

to make up for lost shipping of goods to other nations

And this is the point where the question wriggles to the surface, wanting to know

            where the still ... is, since there exists no impetus to stop,

no silence descending, no lone paratrooper—

his sidearm a black gash, his legs a curve of oil—

in the lower corner of the painting after Bruegel

to attenuate the level of churn

And certainly no time extension, just the counter we’ve all now forgotten,

the cheese, the wine, the television,

the sensory data of lives in our orbitals

And the evening comes, productive as a pre-Cambrian ooze,

            and silence is the accumulated motion

of billions of door hinges

            and the flat baseline of digital hiss

created in the low orbit of inaudible satellites. 


Gabriel Welsch is the author of four collection of poems, the most recent being The Four Horsepersons of a Disappointing Apocalypse. His work has appeared in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, Verse Daily, and recently in journals including Mid-American Review, Prime Number Magazine, Chautauqua, Adroit Journal, Gulf Coast, Main Street Rag, Ascent, Tahoma Literary Review, and Tupelo Quarterly. He lives in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, with his family, works as vice president of advancement and marketing at Juniata College, and is an occasional teacher at the Chautauqua Writer’s Center.