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  • By Johnny Payne

Death Letter

The barrel stave was riven where she drank.

Knots nestled, she lay on the cooling board

a trestle made of evenly sawed planks.

I’d built a home from hosts of best oak planks.

She shuttered in a shack where the wind roared

amid the rain-made ruts from which she drank.

No keeping count of all the pints we drank

or of the ravens that above us soared

only the chasms that we crossed on planks.

Our shaking rattled all the bedstead’s planks.

The nails worked loose and left the fibers scored

and after, from a rusted pipe we drank.

Since first kiss, it was poison most we drank

yet never lips turned blue, until she soured

and ended dead upon a dreadful plank.

The joists of my house groan, as ships that sank

drowned lovers who remained embraced on board.

right next I lay until her bare flesh stank

heads nestled on the rough grain of the planks.

Johnny Payne is Director MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary's University in Los Angeles. He has published two previous volumes of poetry, as well as ten novels. In addition, he writes and direct plays in Los Angeles and elsewhere. His plays have been produced professionally and on university stages.

1 commentaire

05 sept. 2022

I loved this!

The most intriguing feature is the form. Is there a name for this form, or is it your own creation? It appears loosely adopted from the villanelle, but in many ways is stricter in its repetition and limited rhyme scheme. I might try my own hand at this form. The results here are phenomenal.

As for substance, the poem has a dreamy, elusive quality that only alludes to what is spoken of, then drives the point home in the final stanza. The language is beautifully evocative -- but beautiful in a primal, terrifying way.

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