Joshua Hagler. "Ash on Water | Nightlike Brother" (2017), mixed media on linen. Image courtesy of the artist.

Furiously I’ve forgotten
who gave me the jigsaw puzzle
in exchange for Danny. The box
covers my crosslegged lap,
shrink-wrapped, and rattling
from inside.

Aquaman in orange rises
with his trident from the sea.
His friends descend from the top of the picture.
an oil rig between them burns.

I am six and shirtless and dripping
wet on the trampoline. I am
a superhero. A hovering
jet breathes hoarsely overhead
and I am centered
in its shadow.

I can hear that Elton John song
through the screen door: God
it looks like Daniel
. Inside
with the song the women sing,
between the couch and the coffee table
is my mother on the floor.

The box
of kleenex on the carpet
is the biggest thing in the room. I want
to get down into the wounds of my mother,
but I am not supposed to
see, they say.

I am sent instead to feed
the turtles in the fading plastic pool.
I am sent to feed them lettuce.
I was raised in the realm of grave-digging men.
And the graves we dig—

I like to walk
with my second wife, to move
quietly among the gypsum-caked mesquite.
We listen to the parliament of bickering ducks.
We watch the doubled cranes
alight on the mirror lake.

One day, like a letter lost in the mail
for thirty-two years and opened, I in rage go down
onto the floor. What is the word for
such an attack on memory? Where are its images
of the giver of the puzzle
never solved?

It is in how the mereness of her skeleton
bends down around the machinery of mine
that I can finally let it fail.
How could I have ever known
that this is what you get
in exchange?

Joshua Hagler is a visual artist exhibiting widely throughout galleries and museums in North America and Europe. He is a recent grant recipient and current resident at the Roswell Artist in Residence Program in New Mexico.
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