Craig Morgan Teicher

Kids already asleep, the grownups sit out on the deck,

a few empty cans, an open bottle of wine on the table, I’m sure,


and stacked paper plates with half-eaten buns and dirty napkins.

From my backyard next door, I can hear them, the living, chatting.


I can’t make out many words, mostly the rhythm, and laughing.

Death is not what they’re discussing.  “Goodnight,”


a woman says.  “Goodnight,” a few of them answer.  A car

wakes, and then its growl fades into the distance. 




Wind rises and falls, telling

the trees to tell one another.

Air conditioners hum forever.




Clocks ticking. Grains of sand falling.

What else is there to think about?


But what is the thought?  Some small animal

crunching around in the ivy.  A plane


arching across or falling from the sky.

Endless seas reaching toward the horizon.


And beyond the horizon?  Friends?

Memories?  Quiet and perfect calm?


A small boat?  A loving hospital? 

A humming air conditioner lulling me to sleep?




It came as a surprise to me:

that mothers die, that mine did

so young, when I was so young, when she

was younger than my wife is now.


It still seems so unlikely, after

waking another morning in my bed,

not to wake,  the least likely

and least lifelike thing.


She won’t answer

the phone, mail a present, or ever

have met her grandchildren. 

She’ll never die again.




Moths crowd and lunge at

the light above my driveway,

making a flicking sound

as they hit the bulb, the siding.




How quietly the shock begins,

like thunder rolling in,

                                         so softly at first

one mistakes it for something else,


each generation learning alone,

anew, each of us privately aghast,


embarrassed, hiding as if until

it passes,

                  this one, long night.




A man riding a bike in New York was hit by a car and killed.

This was last week.  There was a newspaper story

about the fourteen deaths this year, an emergency

the mayor declared.  This is merely what happens.

I bike south each morning from the bus station to my office.




Within three years, our family hamster, Totoro, will die.

Hamsters simply don’t live longer. Scientists theorize

that there are tortoises on Earth that are over five hundred

years old, and a clam has been found that was determined

to have been born in 1499, before Shakespeare.

Think of a clam being born.

Montezuma and Napoleon and Emily Dickinson

passed through its years.  Churchill and Hitler.

Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., Sonny Bono

and Aunt Fabienne.  Leonardo and Pollack

were this clam’s contemporaries.  The Troubles,

Woodstock, Tiananmen Square, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

Shortly after I finished college, the clam was accidentally killed.




My whole life

is a blip

to a tortoise,


a single thundering

tick of God’s

imaginary watch.




I want to do something

my friends and my children

and their children’s

children might remember,

to die famous for having

done the things I love best,


writing poetry and

talking late into the night

about music and teaching

and supporting the careers

of younger writers and caring

for my disabled son and learning

year by year to be kinder

and less defensive.


I like to imagine myself, too,

in an ashen near-future, huddled in

a shack cobbled of refuse harvested

from the rubble, helping

others escape through

a network of secret tunnels,

a rare green leaf pressed

between the pages

of the last beloved book.





like mine live

and die

in lives like mine.




The clam was born in 1499.

Dorothea was born in 1910.

My grandmother was born in 1912.

Richard was born in 1926.

My dad was born in 1946.

My mom was born in 1947.

Bill Callahan was born in 1966.

Brenda was born in 1970.

I was born in 1979.

Cal was born in 2007.

Simone was born in 2011.

Totoro was born in 2019.





Crickets chirping everywhere,

the ambient din of still air.

I might have wasted my life.




And what about my things

books, CDs, records, hats, guitars, devices,

souvenirs, these weights placed

along the edges of my life


to keep the wind from lifting it away.

I treasure them not because

they are precious or rare,

but because they are mine


I gathered them and put them in order

according to the alphabet

of my affections, my obsessions’

persistent foreword counting,


stacked them like bricks against

storms past, passing, and to come.

I hold them with the mortar of my wishes

and greed.  Will they degrade


to mere things again, disbursed

to distant eBay buyers, landfills,

and future generations unable to decipher

the soul-map of which they’re scraps?




I search for Totoro, peering

into the various hideouts in his cage.

He is present everywhere

in our home, a small ambassador


from a country on this side

of the horizon, a sure sign,

a whole soul in a body

the size and color of a Twinkie.


He pulls me toward him,

a pinprick in the hull of the plane,

which is not falling from the sky

but moving through it


in the only direction it can,

the only one there is, slicing

through hope and dread,

which are thin and invisible


as air, which drags and pulls

at the plane overhead,

slowing it down

as it holds it up.




The sun rises each day like a fathomless eye.

The Earth choruses randomly at every instant.


I wish my wife and daughter were home

from their trip.  No one can ever come


close enough. The party next door is dying

down, just three or four friends left, still laughing,


a playlist of 1990s top 40 hits

rippling through the infinite suburban night.

Found In Volume 49, No. 02
Read Issue
  • craigmorganteicher
Craig Morgan Teicher
About the Author

Craig Morgan Teicher is the author of several books, most recently The Trembling Answers, which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; and the essay collection We Begin in Gladness: How Poets Progress.  His next poetry collection will be out next year.