Poems / March 4, 2024

Night Watch

Catherine Barnett

“Don’t worry, I will return,” were not his dying words.
He had no dying words.

There was no pretense, no implosion.
11:00 p.m.

He was quiet, remote, dying,
sheer as a curtain.

The body is a big dumb object, he taught us.
Death is a genius.

“Do you understand?” he did not say.
11:05 p.m.

Still no protest.
Around him we were

a collective
for which there existed no name.

Vortex?
Hive? Enigma?

Astrophysicists were asking
for suggestions.

Terror. A terror of black holes,
someone proposed.

Yes, that was true.
Silence. A silence of black holes,

someone proposed.
That too was accurate.

What is metaphor?
What is metaphor for?

For you, my father,
genius in a big dumb object.

For when the curtains shivered
and we saw you enter the vortex

of world peace,
with its hive of enigmas.

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Catherine Barnett

Catherine Barnett is the author of Human Hours (winner of the 2018 Believer Book Award in Poetry, a New York Times “Best Poetry of 2018” selection, and a finalist for the T.S. Eliot Four Quartets Award). Her forthcoming collection, Solutions for the Problem of Bodies in Space (Graywolf), will be published in May.

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