Joseph Harrington

from My Posthumous Poems

               As if you had died and your life had extended only to this present moment,  
               use the surplus that is left to you to live from this time onward according to nature.  

                                                                —  Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.56

My First Posthumous Poem

I have lived longer than most people who ever did

I have lived                        I keep reminding myself 

I can enjoy this    after life    stare at a flowering tree    

I had the only life I would            did whatever it did

Specters are spectators      who know this little pixel 

as it lives      shiny     diminished sprung thing project-

ing in the dark      parti-colored images push through 

the ground into              space we expended without 

far falling back into our skin      nesting in a day that

night begins


My Second Posthumous Poem

The dead say numbers on the radio

I prefer to speak over my own air waves

But I like to listen best of all

The wind blows right through me

I do not move around I stay present 

Like someone who has already lived

Like someone who finally can be 

interested in everything 

My Third Posthumous Poem

The love of no love
the name of half-love

swishes on one-dimensional screen
Light insinuates itself then seeps – 

What words lit up this sensation? That
labels the specimen spectrum?

Brown thrashes 
crazy couplets

If life is so “real,”
why does it need all its metaphors?

Sometimes I only see back from outer space, 
back to one glint out of many equally relevant:

Gravity halos everything    
even human ghosts

What spirits the outer everywhere has
makes another story of lights’ flash

dead in the memory mail.
What would you do with a life?

My Fourth Posthumous Poem

read backwards
step lightly
think of life as
historical fiction

of all language
as overheard or
glances over 
a shoulder

My Fifth Posthumous Poem

the ghost of that redbud in sun
asks me what’s on the outside
if it has an edge like the universe

perhaps you go there when you
die, perhaps this moment stays
within a shadow-box,

an always happening, miniature
peek-show within a dark out of
doors appears without

My Sixth Posthumous Poem

red presses eyeballs,
difficult structuring to different
kinds of consciousness a poet reels out
15 minutes in a room and it makes 
her famous, of course, but only 
as soon as she dies

pile of red letters today
lonely obelisk —  
so much time to be dead:
I picture the dead
as wanting nothing more than to die
but they can’t, ’cause they’re dead

man in fetal pose:
you can browse your body
like uneasily as like this – 
we create a safe space where
we can share the same fantasy
worlds in which each of us lives

My Seventh Posthumous Poem

I live around birdsong!

(black / white
+ crimson flash
(old cottonwood to old cottonwood

& dead already, 
I stop to listen

My Eighth Posthumous Poem

suturing bits of poems
together to make a life
already lived. To make of it –

everything from here is gravy
nothing to do but do good
that evanescent memorial –

how many earths in the pink spot
where Jupiter suffers continuous
storm like a wound in its side

all these earths wound its side:
tickle your brain to fill the last
life that will expand it all

then put your hand inside

My Ninth Posthumous Poem

A posthumous poem is a happy poem.
I mean, what a load off, right?  Like,
when I’m not living, I’m not afraid of flying.

It’s only when we land that I resume the story, 
telling my original body it’s the real one.

My Tenth Posthumous Poem

Each night, he dead drunk, 
they’d process his body to his bed
shaking sistrums, chanting “He has lived!”

Playing at being dead, this habeas corpse,
this pretending to be invisible:
I would know: I wouldn’t get so many e-mails.

I heard two eastern peewees sing, saw
“migrant boat capsize caught on camera.”
Therefore I am. Some more am than others.

Machines, batteries half-dead,
make small movements, glow faintly
inside the storm-dark morning.

Say what you have to say then don’t. 
Or come to the end, then just say
Spiky silver maple leaves. Leave it there.

My Eleventh Posthumous Poem

March 6: 
this would have been 
my 57th birthday –

Will I worry about all
the ones left behind? Who
may or may not continue
to be able
to live?
Like the blessed
soul in heaven
looking down upon the rest?

The future is fantasy:
we dwell in Imaginationland.
The future seems as real as
my own thoughts do —
a story that would have kept running
if it hadn’t run out.

In the meantime, animals
go about their business; people
do, too. This crystalized con-
catenation of happenings and branches,
snowmelt and murder. 

Am I sorry I didn’t take it all in?
Am I sorry I didn’t do more?
Soon the people from the boats will arrive;
Soon the people on the road.
You must change your life
after death.

Joseph Harrington is the author of Of Some Sky (BlazeVOX); Goodnight Whoever’s Listening (Essay Press); Things Come On (an amneoir) (Wesleyan); and the critical work Poetry and the Public (Wesleyan). He also authors Writing Out of Time: a blog about creative writing and climate chaos.
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