Four “Dead Man” Poems by Alan Catlin

Photo of a zombie-like dead man

The Dead Man Walks His Dog

He should look older
but he doesn't,
he's been dead too long.
His skin should be wrinkled
but it isn't,
his face is as smooth as a silk sheet.
He should be emaciated
but he's not
Let's face it, his body odor is unbearable.
He is, well
something of a dead issue
even now as he walks his favorite dead dog
down main street
holding the leash near soiled fire hydrants
watching the traffic with a stiff, vacant 				

All the neighbors comment:
"What's he doing now?”
“Walking his dog?”
“He should know better
and keep to his own kind."
That old dead fool
walking his favorite dead dog
this one last time.

Dead Man Don Juan

He's not exactly Casanova
a wilted rose affixed to his lapel,
musk cologne redolent of moss
and earth, dark eyes hard, lusterless
as cat's eye marbles.
The words he whispers are hardly
words of love, the chill he sends
down a woman's spine is not one of lust
or even merely fear.  
Fixing his hair in the mirror is an impossibility,
no reflection stares back.
Cancer warnings on the cigarette packs
are nothing more than an old joke
among friends, gathering by the light
of the moon to exchange strange tales
of how it was and how it will always
used to be.

The Dead Man in the Graveyard

The dead man 
has gathered flowers in the graveyard
of his dreams, intending to place them
at the foot of his grave.
He kneels down on the ground beside the place
where he has been lain to rest
and brushes back a tear with a cold, pale  hand. 
He thinks, then, "What have I become?
What about all those things I could have 
done? and all those things I would like to
undo?" The dead man rises making a sad 
gesture of farewell to himself, suddenly
realizing that the cold white hands, 
stabbing through the ground are his hands 
and that the night surrounding him will be black,

The dead man buys a round

with the copper pennies he has retrieved
from the eyes of the companions, he has
accompanied from this world to the next
and back.  The beer is cold and frothy
a welcome relief to a throat so long
without liquids.  Along the bar, the men
ask no questions about this dark stranger
buying beer, singing softly to himself
ancient tunes no one recognizes, asked 
questions, he neither replies, nor acknowledges,
merely smiling in a dark, enigmatic way,
signaling the barkeep for more beer,
a bowl of chips, a last shot for himself, 
and all those who stand along the bar.

Alan Catlin has published dozens of chapbooks and full-length books of poetry and prose.  Among his more recent books is Asylum Garden: after Van Gogh (Dos Madres) and Exterminating Angles (Kelsay Books.  Forthcoming this summer is a book based on the life and work of Diane Arbus, How Will the Heart Endure (Kelsay Boks) and Listening to Moonlight Sonata (Impspired)

If you would like to be part of The Chamber Magazine family, follow this link to the submissions guidelines. If you like more mainstream fiction and poetry with a rural setting and addressing rural themes, you may also want to check out Rural Fiction Magazine.