Berceuse – New Poetry by Brent Schaeffer

Joint Winner of The Letter Review Prize for Poetry

– August 2018, Western Washington Wildfires

Haze of wild fire: I wade through goose poop
and corrugations of lake surf to my daughter.
She sits on a damp shipping palette and gums
gritty watermelon rinds.       Flies and parties
only live one day, she says. My mother walks away.
My father bustles after.            In Sedona,

years back, he’d done the walking away.
Heat wiggled like television snow or a family
of drunk moths rising from the asphalt
to purple electrocution.       Hard-braking the minivan,
he bailed and I felt: the moment he threw us all away.
On the scenic byway’s shoulder, his drab shorts
shimmered in the haze.

I wanted to be a golden tooth, ersatz and equable.
Face down, I wake up on the couch past 2:00, broken
smokes in my pocket and the day around my throat.
Grief works you.       The back deck my father built
smelled of sawdust and cedar stain and I know
(fairy lights on marigolds) what I heard him say
(canned beer and birthday cake) before he punched the wall.
The Sheetrock beside the door trim’s still softly caved.

Brent Schaeffer’s poetry has been published in Rattle, LIT, Poet Lore and Green Mountains Review, among others. He was a finalist for the 2023 Tucson Festival of Books Poetry Award. He was born and raised in Eagle River, Alaska and lives in Seattle.