you are in the diode archives winter 2011



Parenthood as One Version of the Afterlife

How you get here is how you get here.
                                                               Some arrive
silent, smug in the glow of an executed plan.
Others limp or shamble in, stunned as the occupants

of a wreck who, standing beside a car crumpled
as tinfoil, cannot stop uttering half sentences:

the rain. Weak-as-water brakes. The tree.
But whether this is a well-crafted destination
or one more stop on calamity’s highway,

dwelling in this new landscape will not be
what we thought. So this unmapped terrain bestows

a rough equality over all its citizens,
paralyzed by the expectation that they must be
decisive as battlefield commanders, yet patient

as supplicants who wait to be taken through
the brassy lungs of heaven’s gates or cast

into the cloudy fires of hell. The life behind
claims no shadow, our unchilded beings
featureless as marble. Small details—

a shirt I once owned, a meal, a movie’s title—
belong to a past no longer completely mine.

Flickering through memory’s bland weather, the voice
of a neighbor who, after a glowing and swollen pregnancy,
whispered, “It’s really weird to have a kid.”

That kid would be almost grown now,
a shadow-casting citizen of a world that started over

the first night our daughter was with us,
and I lay awake as they slept, trying to plan
each of the small and unknown eternities before us.  


Al Maginnes is the author of four full-length collections and four chapbooks of poetry, most recently Ghost Alphabet, which won the 2007 White Pine Prize, and Between States (Main Street Rag Press, 2010). His work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming in Southern Review, Georgia Review, roger, Asheville Poetry Review, Scythe, and Cloudbank.  He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and teaches at Wake Technical Community College.