Stick-men crayoned on the closet walls
like astronauts abandoned
to the endless night of space,
ancient grease thick as suntan lotion
on the kitchen ceiling, a cloud of nail holes
floating the front-room wall,
slats of the fractured louver doors
scattered like bones on the bedroom floor.
It took a week to gather the detritus
of giving up, walking away.
So much left behind, hangers strewn in a jigsaw,
shirts and underwear piled in the corners.
the legless blue-foam seat
their child sat on all of every day
and died last month at seventeen.
She couldn’t move or speak,
only shift her eyes enough
that you believed someone lived in there.
They learned what her eye-flickers meant,
the gurgled cries, head wags.
Fed spoon-by-spoon so she wouldn’t choke,
I saw how they’d slide her in the blue seat
across the living-room, stationed by the television
so they could go on with their lives.
They’d check back in ten minutes,
read her eyes the way you try to do
when someone doesn’t answer.
You look as they stare out the window
at the pink streaks of morning,
see how still they are, wanting to believe
they’re loving the overwhelming
beauty of the sunrise until you notice
their eyes have stopped moving.
Mark Burke’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, Nimrod International Journal and others. His work has recently been nominated for a Pushcart prize.