If I speak for the dead,
I must leave this animal of my body.
Ilya Kaminsky, “Author’s Prayer”

When the dead put their fingers in my mouth
a deaf man inside me tastes their urgency.

His tongue abandons all allegiance to the lost present,
probes the contours of a silent language,
and enters the illustrations of fable.

Every scene is a repository of missing narratives.
In each, I am the sparrow
alighting on a sill in the background,
the winged watcher.

The dead in stillness discuss my motives.
My voice is taken apart, reduced to silence.

Like manna the dead daily feed me their yearnings.
I become the bake-oven of their common kitchen.

In such nearness, the aroma of enticements.
Declarations, observations, opinions
rise up unbidden.

Loyalties and betrayals pair off,
refuse to pull punches.
Blame and acclaim embrace, merge.

I am the sparrow, the bake-oven,
the deaf man and the deaf man’s tongue.
This is the voyage of listening
without ears.


Robert Hasselblad has been writing poetry since college days, half a century ago. Newly retired from 43 years in the lumber industry, he devotes time to writing, walking, reading and speculative napping. Recent poems have appeared in OntheBus:The Final Issue, Avalon Literary Review, riverbabble, and WA 129: Poets of Washington.