Ten Thousand Shields & Spears

Poem by Sean Brendan-Brown


The VA surgeons finished
my father with a genre of cuts.
I lit his cigarettes below scarlet keloids —
humor still in him
he wrote someday these really will kill me.
His last request was cremation
so cancer would know fire.

When it was over I took him to the place
of burning, listened to the roar of furnace.
I shook his can of ashes into Lake Michigan.
Fragrant diesel lapped them up & I prayed
“Earth, reassemble him with pig iron
bones, draw his heart in quartz.”

My father loved winter, laughed
at my ineptitude with cold’s rules —
my inability to fix, with a slap, the radio.
Today, ice closed Cedar River, ten thousand
spears rattled glass shields. If this shack had
value I’d buy my way warm.

Santa’s coming the TV warns: another sad
quarrel; trees stripped, scabrous rose petals heaped.
Expect ice dad’s radio gloats. I switch it off,
vacuum tubes exhale
heat onto the bullseyes of my palms.

The radio doesn’t speak anymore
and as Dad’s not here to fix it so it remains —
hot box tick-ticking, without news.

SEAN BRENDAN-BROWN, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has been published in the Notre Dame Review, Wisconsin Review, Indiana Review, Texas Review, Poetry East, Southampton Review, and elsewhere. He received a 1997 NEA Poetry Fellowship and a 2010 NEA Fiction Fellowship. His books can be found here. This poem is a 2013 Luminaire Poetry Award finalist.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Alternating Current Press

Written by

Indie press dedicated to lit that challenges readers & has a sense of self, timelessness, & atmosphere. Publisher of @CoilMag #CoilMag (http://thecoilmag.com)

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Alternating Current Press

Written by

Indie press dedicated to lit that challenges readers & has a sense of self, timelessness, & atmosphere. Publisher of @CoilMag #CoilMag (http://thecoilmag.com)

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

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