Dennis Finnell

Dennis Finnell
2 Poems


The W Range

Once I wrote a real poem to thank
a student for Ice Mountaine Chocolates,
praising their “hazelnut centers”
loving their “lodes of rich ore
around which brown mountains solidified.”
I said they loomed ceiling-ward on my
office desk, The W Range, named after her,
“twelve peaks each 1.25 inches in altitude.”
She was the running office joke,
her gifts to our American noses fragrant
as bribes–a red, white, and blue
fountain pen and pencil set,
$10 gift cards to Wal-Mart in tiny envelopes
to us teaching her the American way,
the Ice Mountaine Chocolates.
Words went on at her back
until someone spoke other words–
she was a refugee.  Then our truth
about her, this W, faded to hearsay–she had
stopped speaking English,
she was confined to “the fourth floor,”
town lingo for the psychiatric ward,
one voice living in her ears, and she spoke
to it her own tongue–a hybrid Russian/
English, Russ-lish?–her talking cure.
I kept the Ice Mountaine Chocolates
for weeks in the freezer, then watched
myself take them at arms’ length,
deposit them in the garbage,
thence to the Transfer Station, a place
in America for the too sweet
chocolate mountain ranges of life.
Last time I saw her I didn’t see her
but I see her occasionally at dusk,
a superimposition, a cloud.


Breath, Shortness of

Not so much off my chest
as out of it, his
bearhug in the doorway
lasting what must have been
30 seconds, must now be
forever, his embrace not
a sign of love so much as
spasm, arms locked
about my chest, the symptom
but before his forever
as he squeezed
both of us near-breathless,
he shorter than ever, his face
now down at my neck,
an unknown pink rose
into my head, a wonder if
the embrace was fear, and whose,
or his wish that I not
leave him, or a third thing,
or a fourth, or on and on
and so, small vague
bubble rising, my chest (still
a little out of breath) says
yes, love, words now stuttering,
this squeeze his plea
to know him, this 30-second hug
for me squeezing him always,
all of the above plus
his passing on his passing on,
with each exhalation.



Dennis Finnell photo by Richard Wedegartner (2)Dennis Finnell most recent book is Ruins Assembling, awarded the 2014 Things to Come Poetry Prize from Shape&Nature Press.  Other books of his have won the Juniper Prize, the Bellday Prize, and been published in the Contemporary Poetry Series from the University of Georgia Press.  He was born in St. Louis, has lived in Kansas City, and now calls western Massachusetts home. photo courtesy of Richard Wedegartner.