Poetry by Korey Hurni

By Korey Hurni

At the Wake

You will be 14
and it will be hard
to talk about.
Instead you will
stand with the women
of your family
in a black
suit you will
soon outgrow,
and focus on
their small conversations
of spring,
because it is April,
and because all the women
in your family
are hopeful gardeners. They
will talk about waiting
until the last frost,
and this will remind you
of a week ago,
after your brother’s
last breath, when everyone
waited hours
to make the call,
because he was still warm
like a wetted washcloth.
You stood next
to your mother
unsure whether or not
to agree with her
when she insisted
it was over.

You won’t understand
why your father asks
you to sit outside on
the porch when
they finally make the call.
When you walk back inside
you will place your head
on his chest before
they take his body away,
and you will still be unsure
because even though you feel
his heart laid open to the benign
indifference of the universe,
his chest feels like earth
after the last deep frost,
and you will hear nothing
but the sound of blood
circulating in your ear.



_____Sartre, after reading Heidegger and returning from Germany,
_____raised a cocktail in toast and said, “From this we can make philosophy,”
_____and this would come to mean that we are literally nothingness.

My father is eating nothing but fruit again.
My mother and I know that when he’s afraid
of dying he starts to peel back
bananas, pit black cherries
with his thumbs, his hands turn dark
like a surgeon’s from knowing right
where the tumor is, but here the flesh
is messy.

His favorites are oranges.
He smells of oranges,
the way my mother is coated
in chardonnay. As she holds her glass
of light, my father’s stubbornness piles
six rinds on a white plate in one sitting.
After my brother’s cancer, and my father’s two
cancer scares of his own, my mother and I
think we understand: that memory
and grief are themselves a sort of rind
that only his nails can pick at,

but we can’t explain his eyes,
or when he mistakenly bought a blood
orange and dug into it, lifting the pith
from the veins until red juice
that was startling dripped
to the floor. After years of working waste treatment
my father describes precision as merely narrowing
the margin of error.

Korey Hurni was born and raised in Lansing, MI, and recently earned his MFA at Western Michigan University where he served as Poetry Editor for Third Coast.


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