Caryl Pagel

Four Dead Men

He took a solitary walk across
the region                                He couldn’t stop he
couldn’t stop he couldn’t pause he
couldn’t stop he sought to circle
the space                                 He needed to circle
the space you see                         He needed
to see the place you see
he could only fathom the place
he knew you see if he
saw it plainly as he circled
and you heard that he recorded
his thoughts on the walk at
the hospital                            His walk began—so
the story goes—as the dog
days were drawing to an end
It was the finish of one
mood and the commencement of another
He was going to conclude unmoving
he knew you see he would
eventually break down immobile you know
only realizing in retrospect—after the
act of walking—but before recording—
that he could remember the faces
he encountered if he began to
watch once more—if he took
a walk around the region in
his mind—if he recalled the
damage that he’d done and wrote
it down                               At that time this
man—this first dead man—was
attempting to make things appear you
see he was attempting to reclaim
that which in his mind had
wholly vanished                  He was feeling—in
fact—a little apparitional                   He was
attempting to think himself healthy you
know he wanted to walk himself
well and so he wrote down
what he saw and you experienced
what he saw within the stretched
and spooky spiraling sentences that unraveled
and expanded as a rough path
parallels a road that no one
is headed down                  They wouldn’t stop
He couldn’t stop                 He disclosed you
know in prose the destruction of
important historical buildings                He witnessed the
wreck of ancient languages                          He saw
old ruins which recalled him to
new ruins some of which he
was seeing again in his mind
and some of which he read
about and some of which you
were reading about him reading about
and some of which he knew
from the very few people he
had stopped long enough to talk
to                                  This man—this first dead
man—admired the wildest gardens you
know but he also couldn’t stop
imagining his passed friends’ faces he
wrote he couldn’t stop thinking dead
strangers’ thoughts you read he couldn’t
stop                    He couldn’t stop                    He couldn’t
stop and didn’t want to                  You
are shocked now abruptly up from
a page on which he is
describing the interesting history of herring
to see another man hovering—here
in your doorway                        This other man—
this second man is living and
you love him but he can’t stop
he can’t see—you can’t stop
he can’t see he needs someone
to take him to the hospital
He needs someone to circle his
sickness                         He needs you and only
you to circle his circles and
he needs you and only you
to attend to his sickness but
you’re not—you’re going to stop
You read instead a book about
a man who has recently been
in the hospital                          This man is
leaving in part to see the
now empty home of a friend
who had recently passed in part
perhaps because he should have remained
in the hospital                         Instead this man—
this third man dead—is visiting
his friend’s home just after he
died—a suicide—with the hope
that he—the third dead man—
could inhabit again the tone and
humor and luminous brilliant beautiful significant
wonderful loving tortured sorrowful stagnant angry
awesome puzzled tragic hurtful magic difficult
mind of his dear friend during
the time in which he still
survived—when this man was not
yet ill but lived instead to
write about architecture and remarkable buildings

forthcoming in Twice Told


Caryl Pagel is the author of Experiments I Should Like Tried At My Own Death (2012) and Twice Told (2014). She is a poetry editor at jubilat and will soon be the new Director of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center as well as faculty for the NEOMFA program in eastern Ohio.