I am the buck knife in my
Papa's top drawer beside
the wheat pennies. Sharp
and sturdy enough to run

the anus to breastbone
of a doe. Old enough to have
heard the choke of my baby
father, laid on the carpet

with Papa's pinky finger
swiping his throat for hard
candy. In the dark of the
dresser in the house he built

I'm as reluctant to leave
as they are. As fiercely unaware,
I prowl with him the hallways
for nonexistent robbers till the

nurses put us back to bed.
Like him I fear nothing. Unlike
him I have no reason to suspect
death to rob me of everything.

J. Whitmel Earley is an English Literature graduate of the University of Virginia and now lives, studies, and writes
in China. His poetry and short fiction, interested in reducing cities to their people, have appeared in Relief Magazine,
Inkstone Magazine, and Terracotta Typewriter.
See more writing at

The urge for this poem began after a phone conversation with my older sister in which she told me of my grandfather's declining condition. The details of his latest escapades were at the same time fascinating, humorous and deeply saddening.
In one way this poem was rare. It came suddenly, in one quick sitting. I edited it, but only for unity of style and rhythm.But in another way, this poem was of the usual kind. It became a form and a voice for the resolution of that experience. And I was grateful for its coming. At first, the fact of an object's existence outlasting its owner's seemed difficult to swallow. But this poem helped me to see death as a mark of life's significance, rather than its lack of significance. In that way, a human life became entirely distinct from all the objects that seemed to overwhelm it - and Buck Knife came to the page.



Copyright 2009