Artwork

Noah Cain

Noah Cain teaches high school English and writes in Winnipeg. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications including CV2, antilang, and Glass.

“These poems respond to ‘Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field one Night,’ written by Walt Whitman based on his experiences as a medic during the American civil war. Whitman’s poem led me to explore the strange vigils I have kept for the dying and the contrast of the elemental and intensely intimate death described by Whitman with the more sanitized, detached deaths that occur within the ICU.”

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          visions of northern leopard frogs

     splattering against plywood walls
         tossed by preteen gangs
         who walk paths
             flatbeak caps back
     limbs splayed
     rotate, thud

     caught in lawnmower blades
         that tame the swamp-edge clearing
             thin screams unheard under
             two stroke thwacks
     slick green skin
     aromatic clippings

     gasping in ice cream pails
         a tuft of grass
         an inch of water
         a stone
             air holes stabbed in
             yellow lids, dead mosquitos
     stress mottles
     skin patterns murky

     suffocating in rucksacks
         small hands forget
         pocket pets
             found festered
             by moms
     among still-folded
     tees

          a prayer

     may they die as they thrive—
     in muck

     tune their tympanums
     (those drums of membrane and cartilage)
     to the clumsy signals, grubby hands
     of boys trained to war
                                      drink
                                      toss
                                      mow
                                      tame
                                      stow

the blurring half-wake                       

frozen lake floor silence — ICU discord
       baggy green skin breathes — mechanical breath
three chamber heart echoes — mechanical beat
                           til spring — my ears ring

                    life redefined
                    prolonged

                    outside
                    the world
                    is melting

                    why aren’t you waking up?

     your skull too thin
     for this paved, curbed
     world

*

     your heart                                                   beats
                         the headwater of red rivers
     in a latex hand                                           beats
     on ice

*

     your torso a cavern
     empty bone cage
         an organ at a time
             skin shroud stitched
             pre-ashing

*

     in other bodies
     you’ll pump, oxygenate, purify
     in test tubes you’ll react to stimuli
     populate scatterplots

*

                                         do you belong to me at all?

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