This week’s poem memorializes the night of a particular tragedy. In a poem, as in life, it is often the smallest of sensory details that sticks with us – in this case, it’s the buzzing of flies, heard as if for the first time.

A longtime professor of English at St. Joseph’s College, Edward Rielly is the author of many books, including poetry, nonfiction, and picture books.

Left at Home

By Edward J. Rielly

That night of drowning

the boy didn’t know

his brother’s face was under water,

body swirling

in black rushing terror

and wetness.

Didn’t know for hours,

long after his parents

and the brother’s wife

and the priest summoned

to the river knew,

watching divers churn up mud

and silt, startle fish, looking

for a drowned man’s body.

At home with an older cousin

he washed the supper dishes,

dried carefully, noting

how, on the dried dishes,

under the bright kitchen light,

flies landed, kept landing,

marking each plate and cup

with black marks, alive, fluttering,

buzzing with a sound

he had never heard before.

Gibson Fay-LeBlanc is Portland’s poet laureate. DEEP WATER: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 1994 Edward J. Rielly. First published My Struggling Soil, Whitby, Ontario, Canada: The Plowman, 1994, and appears here by permission of the author.

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