If I Have To Leave One Night
by Cal Freeman

If I fall because a valve has given out
beneath poplar shadows near Ecorse Creek
or on a sidewalk in front of a cinderblock
tract house and you arrive too late
to save me, your dog stopping to sniff
the corpse with a detached curiosity before
you notice it, the clasp of your umbrella
jangling as you kneel to see that I am dead,
leave me lying with legs accordioned
beneath bony knees, face bluish,
lips belled around the beginnings
of a gasp or moan, and do not move me
until my wife comes to identify the body
and see me as I was at my last moment,
and step away for as long as that moment takes.
Leave her to me. She might want to press
my lips or pound my chest to see
if the heart sputters or grab my lapels
and shout that we both must have known
this was coming given the way I’ve lived
(your dog will whimper in the dark,
or my dead dog might whimper in the dark
to see me dead and hear my wife distraught)
or fold my arms across my chest and bury
her face in this old flannel shirt I wear
each time I walk into the night.

PHOTO: North branch of the Ecorse River, Wayne County, Michigan.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cal Freeman is the author of the book Brother of Leaving (Marick Press) and the chapbook Heard Among the Windbreak (Eyewear Publishing, London). His writing has appeared in many journals, including Commonweal, The Journal, The Cortland Review, Passages North, and Hippocampus. He is the recipient of the Howard P. Walsh Award for Literature, The Ariel Poetry Prize, and The Devine Poetry Fellowship (judged by Terrance Hayes). He has also been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in poetry and creative nonfiction, as well as Best of the Net and Best American Poetry.

AUTHOR PHOTO: The author in Heather Lane Park, South Dearborn Heights, Michigan.