The Language of Burial
Patrick Cahill

Up in the wires a finch with its melodious song, that harsh note at the end of it. So like everything we do. Your graveyard for words—what grows there now? Phacelia and wood mint, or sow thistle and storksbill? How many did you bury yesterday? Fiddlesticks, porkpie hat, gee-whilikers, portmanteau? You know I’ll miss porkpie hat, and portmanteau. A cat in the sack—feline in a paper bag? musician in bed? Solo, or with a guest? Her voice held the note as I left the café, its paper cups and coffee beans.

Bar stools in a wavering line, not unlike the drunks who’ll soon line up on them. Shall we will we join them? You carry your list wherever you go. Light and yet it weighs down your shoulder bag, lowers your left shoulder with its fragile weight. Now and then you take it out and broadcast its ruined remains, although your shoulder doesn’t snap back. We just can’t take you places, anymore.


Those buried words, or soon to be. Light a candle, sing a verse of plainsong. Augustine did in the Isle of Thanet. That feeling of elation, and hopelessness. What will we do without without babushka? OK Frost quit lollygagging and mend the wall. Even though the stones won’t stick. I will miss our free-for-alls. Ditto heebie-jeebies. Though ditto? No. Every metaphor at some stage of decay. The soap smells of cleaning fluid, the flowers draw flies. Our parsley has liquefied in its plastic bag. Let’s don our homburgs, sashay on into town, do the tarantella, before it’s too late. Let’s take apart our Uzis, throw a temper tantrum, move into a yurt. The pavement choppy ahead of us. No graphite in the pencil, no ink in the well. The keys silent. The program frozen. I know I’ll miss redacted. I will miss delete...

First published: August 2018
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