Steven Heighton | SINGING IN THE GRAVE


In the dream, the brother I do not have
says something about singing in the grave.
I understand him to mean singing
in the graveyard but don’t correct him —
I’m astonished that he exists at all,
though I may in fact have had a brother, briefly,
who can say; when I was a child, folks rarely
spoke of the ones who arrived months too soon
or else on time but stubbornly
holding their breath forever.

When our boy was stillborn
I held him up to the sun crowning
from the lake ten storeys below the ward window
and the molten light made his eyes alive.
At times I hate the word seem
so I just say alive though I do not sing it
in the way my brother’s spirit-double
now seems to urge.

While I had the chance I should have asked him
(brother, son), Why is it when you half-wake
from the high cirrus of sleep
to dreamed music, it’s already fading,
gone, it can never be remembered
or set down?

Like mine and my brother’s,
his eyes were dark brown.


Author’s Bio

Steven Heighton’s most recent books are Reaching Mithymna: Among the Volunteers and Refugees on Lesvos and Selected Poems 1983-2020. His work has appeared in Granta, the LRB, Poetry, Tin House, and the NYTBR. This year Wolfe Island Records will release an album of his songs, The Devil’s Share.