The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

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APRIL 2021 Issue
Critics Page

Keith Haring says every audience member is an artist because they create the meaning of a piece of art

Or, he said it in the past tense. Because he was alive
when he said it. And now he is a thing we have

all agreed is called dead. Dead is what happens
when everyone who loves you wants to talk to you

the same way they always have, and can’t
ever again. Dead is when all of what you made—

love letters, poems, voicemails, your tongue
into the shape of a clover in a high school photo—

is all that you are. Sometimes dead is kaput.
Dead makes your acquaintances think of you more often.

It makes your true loves say, I don’t know how
I’ll continue / to live.
Talking to the dead

is a staticky connection, to say the very least.
And saying the very least is what the dead do best.

Because when you’re dead, people say what you would
have said. Your memory becomes a commodity,

your death a commercial which ends with a candle.
I speak to the dead with my yearning. I can write

to the bottom of a lake. And you, like me, might think
it’s nonsense. But you, like me, also suck sometimes.

You, like me, can be so cynical you’ll look at death
and say, prove it. You, like me, may have nothing left

to learn from all that you can’t see. It’s unbearable
to know so much, you stupid idiot.

And there are things

               you don’t know

                               that only you can know.


Jon Sands

Jon Sands is a winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series, selected for his second book, It’s Not Magic (Beacon Press, 2019). His work has been featured in the New York Times, as well as anthologized in The Best American Poetry. He facilitates the Emotional Historians writing workshop, which you can learn more about on IG at @iAmJonSands.


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2021

All Issues