The Obituarist’s Commute

by Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler

Wind on the Water by Jeffrey C. Dickler

He’d like to present the commonplace things
that the bereaved are wont to palpate gingerly:
her bone-white cup, jagged from long use,
the kitchen chair, wood-grained, like a tree
reduced to a stump without his body
to crown it, that stretch of road avoided now—
that’s where the names belong,
between the mile markers delineating
his newsprint. He’s reduced to using words,
so the ideas of the dead he proffers are frail,
flimsy affairs like ephemeral paper,
peregrine and windblown sheets
of untouched and etherized skin that never settle,
never drape themselves over the hard shapes
of the world where survivors probe their relics.
Sometimes, though, he thinks this day
scrolling between bed and desk will be
when he succeeds, a hope tenable only here,
this sunny interregnum, an arrival rustling the air
like the memory of loved hair, rust moving in millipedes
along the steel roofbeams, a hope of alighting,
of creased and wounded texture descending—
it’s his train. The notebook closes with a snap.
He rises from the bench. The silence of the dead
is imperious as the strutting pigeons,
and every surface is lined with plastic spikes.


This poem was previously published in Minute Magazine.

Isaac Stackhouse Wheeler is a poet and translator from Canterbury, New Hampshire, best known for his English renderings of books by the great contemporary Ukrainian author Serhiy Zhadan, in collaboration with co-translator Reilly Costigan-Humes. His poetry and translations have appeared in journals including Ad Hoc Monadnock, Coldnoon, The Missing Slate, and Two Lines. His next translation, The Orphanage, is forthcoming from Yale University Press.

Jeffrey C. Dickler, a native of Brooklyn, New York, was transplanted to the Midwest after his formative years. His love of the outdoors grew from summers at his grandfather’s Camp Iroquois on Frost Pond in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. By age four he already had hiked to the peak of Mount Monadnock. Later family trips to the American Southwest and National Parks cemented his love of exploring nature with a pack on his back and camera in hand. In 2017 he retired to the Monadnock region. He lives with his wife, Deni, and their four-legged companion, Willy Waggins, in Rindge, New Hampshire.