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Gary Fincke: The Double Negatives of the Living

After the pastor spoke well,

After he opened our route

With syntax and grammar

Correct as his manner,

I could follow my mother

To her grave and lapse into

The double negatives

Of the living.  I could talk

Two hours past midnight with

My father in the steelworker

Idiom of his city, hearing

The fried mush of morning,

The white Sunday silence,

The many tongues of the cross

Speaking dialect stories

Of the holy mill.  I could catch

His punctuation by breath born

In the thick ash of evening,

Overhear the end stops in

His coughs, the accidental case

For the thrift store’s stock,

The body’s swift tumors;

The chance of modifiers

For the factory uncles,

The fat, baking aunts,

The grandmothers in the pews

Of their dead husbands

Or rocking on porches

Flush with the brutal streets.

And finally the commas for

Steel, rivers, bridges, bars.

And Christ, the Expletive,

And all of the language

Of the land that we leave

And return to, reopening

The earth and stammering

Like the past’s twin-speech,

What we know by repeating,

What runs on without us.


Copyright 2021 Gary Fincke. Previously published in Poetry and in The Double Negatives of the Living, Zoland Books.

Gary Fincke has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry Magazine. He lives in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

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