Poets Read

Poets Read: Jimmy Hollenbeck

We are pleased to offer our Poets Read series in honor of National Poetry Month 2019 and will run it throughout the month of April. 

Every day in April, our website and our YouTube channel will feature the voice of a poet whose work has appeared in our pages over the past year. On Sundays, we will offer two poets for your enjoyment. 

Today’s poem is An Answer to a Question My Brother Asks Me by Jimmy Hollenbeck and it appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of Gyroscope Review.

An Answer to a Question My Brother Asks Me
by Jimmy Hollenbeck


Once, you asked if I’m scared to die. We were on the porch, 
and you told me about the first time you contemplated suicide. 
The cold air outside pumped our lungs like so much smoke. 
I thought about how, each year, leaves shrivel and jump 
from the trees. Sometimes, I think I can hear my veins tighten 
with blood, and I’m afraid they’ll overflow.

Father, tell me what death is like.

Now, I’m on a different porch, and you’re not here. It’s cold, I blow
cigar smoke into the bright morning. At the bottom of the porch,
a crow makes a guillotine of its beak. I read a book in high school
on numerology of crows that said a single crow marks death. The snow
mutes the world like a finger on a tuning fork; it’s that simple.
Sound becomes pure, white silence. Thanksgiving, my grandfather
sits alone in the living room because he can’t hear any of us. My heart,
a broken mirror, refracts everything it sees. I have a question,

Father: what is death like?

Strip me of arteries, peel me like a forest fire, leave me scorched,
barren. I’ll still be here on the porch, listening to crow carrion-consume.
Death may follow: I’ll make a friend of her; tell her all my secrets. We’ll lay
together in bed and she’ll use me until I’m out of breath. I’ll be her marionette,
one day, and her voice will come from my sin-mouth, this curse-tongue
will lick away my fears. Right now, I’m alone, and I can hear the snowfall.

Father, tell me what death is like.

About the Poet: Jimmy Hollenbeck is a graduate student/assistant at Central Michigan University. His hobbies include brewing beer, reading comic books well past the typical age, and listening to jazz and pretending he understands it. He hopes to graduate December 2019 with his M.A. and to pursue an M.F.A. following that.