Gathering Firewood on Tinpan

I bundle them against my chest, not sure 

if they’re dry enough. Gauging how long 

they’ll keep me warm by the thickness. 

I step around carefully, looking for 

the deadest, searching the low places 

for something small and old that will catch. 

I pick up the dander loosened 

as my father folds his hands, lowers his head. 

The rolling thunder on the surface of a nail. 

I pick up the cross that seesaws his chest 

with each step. The day I lost my faith. 

The night my dog ran away and came back sick. 

The battery-pump of her final breath. 

Still wondering if she left alone, 

or if my father walked her out of this world. 

Still wondering what he used for a leash. 

I go further into the trees and find 

more fuel. My friends faded on oxy 

and percocet. My cousin Josh 

buried young in the floodplain.

My brother and the ways I burden him. 

Living it over and over each night. 

My father walking into every dream. 

My fire not bright enough to reveal anything. 

Not even his face. Not even the leash.

Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Anders Carlson-Wee

Anders Carlson-Wee is the author of THE LOW PASSIONS (W.W. Norton, 2019), a New York Public Library Book Group Selection, and DYNAMITE (Bull City Press, 2015), winner of the Frost Place Chapbook Prize. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, BuzzFeed, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Sun, New England Review, The Southern Review, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and many other publications. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Poets & Writers, Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, he is the winner of the 2017 Poetry International Prize. His work has been translated into Chinese. Anders holds an MFA from Vanderbilt University and is represented by Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents.

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