Mark's Death Mask

Charles Kell

There was nothing of what we
talked about written there. Way
too white. The black whiskers
little bruises just above the mouth
shut like a question mark. Flashes
make the lines fade. I wonder if his
eyes are there staring into the back
of his closed eye-lids. Bulging
cotton balls after the blood is sucked
out. Everything in the world is eaten
away. He looks horrible. Dying
again waiting to be buried. My
reflection from his wax face is a black
box. His eyes are sewed shut. His eyes

are no longer there. They remain
trapped in the tree he crashed into
wide open on Vair Road. He has run
away. He is gone, at last, trapped
in one spot.

In a Dark Room

Charles Kell

Every man is an island,
he thought without saying.

What if—as I sit here now—a
horrible something inside of me is growing?

I see him when I close my eyes,
splayed out on a table disguised

as a bed, piss dribbles into a bag
and a fly lands on the oxygen machine.

I never meant what I said,
or thought, really. It’s silly

to call time a linear

palimpsest; an imposture, more

matter of factly, more use out
of the plain lie, glassen surfaces

is how I described his eyes,
more surfaces meant to defend

against depths. Your room, now
a charnel house where you self

flay until you waste away to
nothing. This thing that gnaws

at your entrails, until you’re
eventually strangled by your bowels.

(I remember once how you burnt all
of your belongings in a rust-orange oil drum)

Another act of empty atonement:
to compose an epic of silence.

Your bloody philosophy complete;
finally, in stillness, your slow death slog.

Charles Kell is a PhD student at The University of Rhode Island and editor of The Ocean State Review. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The New Orleans ReviewThe Saint Ann’s Review, and elsewhere. He teaches in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

"I cannot precisely articulate why I write. The writers I love most—Beckett, Bernhard, Kafka (and all of the poets)—have always been there for me. And I might say, at certain moments, that I feel somewhat like a detective when I write, but I never find what I set out to look for, or the writing never “consoles,” “enlightens,” or “satisfies.” But, despite this thought, I still believe in it immensely: the process, the gathering, the moments when one is in the act of writing."