At sixty, your traces stalk the hollows
of grocery stores from here to Snowflake,
Arizona. A thatch of curly gray hair
shuttles past the cash register, your cow-
milking hands pull a list out of an empty wallet.
You are forever in the next aisle over,
shaking a watermelon, picking at your
mustache, laughing with the manager
over an inside joke concerning paper or plastic,
laughing through the vegetables of loneliness
and the continual grind of bare freezers
and birthdays without anything, not even a cake.
Today it’s a flannel shirt
I see slipping through sliding glass
doors. Something lost in the hunter’s
worn down red, a familiar set of stripes
running through the plaid. Tomorrow
in San Diego your fingerprints will appear
on a drinking fountain, and in two weeks
a phone call will course from Oahu,
full of guttural questions and sun.
Yet it’s always yesterday
I imagine you near the backwoods
of Oklahoma, opening large stable doors,
then brushing the mane of a palomino
as a bird warbles through the muffled dawn.
You submerge in growing
light, occasionally smiling at nothing
near the end of the street.
You pat the horse and speak
secrets into a flickering ear.
From here I have only this letter
I’m not sure where to send
or a eulogy I am too afraid to speak.
Perhaps, tonight I’ll return
to an obscure shelf in the grocery store,
buy couscous or ask a stranger
to explain the difference between
writing to the disappeared
and speaking to the dead.
That’s when I’ll envision you
again, carrying a saddle
into another dawn’s hazy light,
that’s where the picture fades,
where the horse lowers its head,
eats what’s left out of your hand.
For nearly a decade, Mark D. Bennion has taught writing and literature courses at BYU-Idaho. When not teaching, he can be found watching tennis, playing racquetball, or eating kimchi. He recently published the poetry collection Psalm & Selah: a poetic journey through the Book of Mormon (Parables Publishing). Within three weeks, he and his wife, Kristine, will welcome their fourth child into the world.
“Letulogy” was originally published in The Comstock Review ,Vol. 21, No. 1, Spring/Summer 2007.