All We Know of Death is its Music

Poem by William Bortz


the hovering moon splinters above
bodies not welcomed back to the living

trying to speak your name is
like throwing a fist in a dream—all air
no impact

we are made in his image
exuberant and split

how far we’ve come only
to become lesser
fear is the distance between
what I believe and what is
if I recite your name like a prayer
will the warmth of your clasped hands
redden my skin

sometimes, at golden hour, I
imagine I’m where you are—
our breathing echoing
a flower in the thicket
everything sounds as real as it is
the sun burning itself out behind the hills
your hand on the nape of my neck
your smile a birdsong


William Bortz (he/him) is a husband, poet, and editor living in Des Moines, Iowa. His work appears or is forthcoming in Okay Donkey, Empty Mirror, Back Patio Press, and others. His book of poems The Grief We’re Given will be published February 2021 from Central Avenue.

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