A Dryness Hollering Out for Death


Last week, while I was struggling to think of something to write for this blog, I put it aside for a moment and began a new novel. The novel has owned me pretty much every day since, and I’m sure it will own me for the next few years at least, but I’ve vowed to do something I didn’t do on the two previous novels I wrote – Fortuna Berlin and Ramblin’ Fever – and that’s take lots of breaks from it to write on this blog, and write poetry, and draw, and hopefully figure out how to work with paint. In the meantime, it’s the second day of Spring, and it’s snowing here in Berlin. It’s not good snow. It’s the false kind. The kind that melts the moment it touches earth, and makes everything look wet and soggy and halfsuicidal. Perfect writing weither. But I won’t be doing that today. Today I am with my son watching cartoons in German and getting jumped on and trying to get through Light in August, by William Faulkner, which is humbling to say least. I’d only read a few short stories of his before. Never knew he was this good. Must’ve been all that Southern whiskey he drank.

Here’s a poem of mine that was published in Gyroscope Review a few months back.

A Dryness Hollering Out for Death

Men that I have known
who once had the strength of the mighty
Pacific in them, with backbones
made of molten organ pipes, and minds in torrid
to see them now reduced
to the echo of an empty conch shell,
to husks of long-departed
insects, thinning, dried-up,

Men that I have known
who once were brimming with wild
stories and undiscovered ferocities,
washed-up now,
longing for long-gone
days, trying to subsist off songs
and culture the world had long since drawn
the spirit out of.

Maybe you’ve seen one
standing in line at the supermarket,
or mowing his lawn, or driving in the car next to you,
this angry, decomposing,
pot-scraping infertility,
a dryness hollering out for death,
a stone-gray shadow.

With nothing left to say.
With nothing left to be.
With nothing left to give.
(The worse tragedy of them all.)

The men I have known.


20 thoughts on “A Dryness Hollering Out for Death

  1. Impressive, Michael. I especially loved the ending, with the last sentence in brackets. Very effective.
    P.S. To know you’re reading Faulkner….I like you even more now.

    Bis bald. Hopefully, without snow.

  2. This inspires me: I love your priorities: new novel, writing more essays, poetry, drawing, & even moving toward painting… you’re centered in the best aspects of existence – it brings to mind Walter Pater’s words from the conclusion to his Renaissance: “…we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among ‘the children of this world,’ in art and song.” …Also I really love the two latest poems that you’ve shared—the one from your last entry and this one here. I like especially those lines near the end of this current one, where “nothing left to give” is deemed a worse tragedy than all the others: that’s an incisive take, & I agree with it. Plus the gorgeous love-heights of “Just Touch the Harp Gently My Pretty Louise”… Ah & I’m overjoyed to hear that you’re enduring Light in August! (“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.”) That book is holy and sacred to me: it’s a tie for my favorite Faulkner text, with As I Lay Dying.

  3. I’ve found the deeper I am in my artistic life, the happier I am. This doesn’t always bode well for the people around me, but they learn to accept and adapt. Thank you for your good words about my poems. It always means a lot coming from you (bearing in mind your lofty standards & impeccable taste, etc., etc.). I did not know you were a Faulkner fan. Maybe you’ve mentioned it, but because I was ambivalent about him at the time, I didn’t take note. Now that I’ve gotten to know him a little better, I can see he’s going to be a big influence. Glad you mention As I Lay Dying. I was just yesterday trying to figure out what I should read next from him and was torn between that and Sound and Fury. Then I saw that As I Lay Dying is a considered a Black Comedy (term first coined, as I was to find out, by one of your faves, Breton, who’s also on my shortlist), and that made the decision for me. Your reinforcement only makes that decision stronger, so I plan on getting to it after I clear up some of the many half-read books I have hanging around here.

  4. Oh, oh, my. That’s a good poem.
    Yes, Faulkner is one of the best, and it could be the whiskey. But when I see some of your work, I think you’re not bad yourself. Hope the writing is productive, even if you need nasty Berlin weather to do it 😉

    • I can write like Faulkner in short bursts. So can you I think. But to do what he does in 500 pages, that’s beyond my ken. Developing plots is my weak point. The writing has been very productive, but doing a weekend trip right now. On a Flixbus to Quedlinburg as I type this. Thanks for your kind words!

  5. I can’t tell this to you enough, but I love your poems and your prose! You are incredibly talented! You really capture this elusive spirit in your work, in this poem so well. Waves of despair tugging at the hollowed out center that was once so mighty! I am looking forward to read all your books!

    • Thank you so much, M.P. I’m lucky to have you as a reader (and to read you). I feel the same about your own work. Must have something to do with the Chicagoland water. 🙂


  7. How incredibly sad…how incredibly familiar now that I’ve reached the age where I see these shells all around me. I see them for a while—months, or maybe a year or two—and then they’re gone away to a place I cannot know, but will know all too soon.

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