Charles O. Hartman

The Birthdays of the Dead
July 26, 2018 Hartman Charles O.

The Birthdays of the Dead


It is an affront in their land
to remind someone of that first
exile because they recollect

the sojourn with terror still and
regret the loss of it.  All those
dawns, roads, splinters, whiskies and hard
chairs, all that fucking and eating

and talk, talk, talk. They never talk
since it takes tongue and breath. All that
breathing! they say inside themselves
when the memorial comes round.
Well out of that cadence! they say

all day. No more of those little
amnesias, the sleeps! Now they have
more than all the time in the world.
Someone across the borderline

has tied two fingers together
with black thread, not to forget, till
nightfall and the time to cut it.


Charles O. Hartman has published eight collections of poetry, including Downfall of the Straight Line (Arrowsmith Press, forthcoming 2024), as well as books on jazz and song (Jazz Text, Princeton 1991) and on computer poetry (Virtual Muse, Wesleyan 1996). His Free Verse (Princeton 1981) is still in print (Northwestern 1996), and Verse: An Introduction to Prosody was published by Wiley-Blackwell in 2015. In 2020 he co-edited, with Martha Collins, Pamela Alexander, and Matthew Krajniak, a volume on Wendy Battin for the Unsung Master series. He is Poet in Residence Emeritus at Connecticut College. He plays jazz guitar.