The Watcher on the Wall

Lured by the first snow of winter,

my dead father managed to struggle out

of his grave on the far hill, managed to stagger

down into the walnut grove to meet me

as the heavy flakes fell.

He did not look bad. There

was a grandeur in his features in the half-light of

my torch.

What is it the snow does for the soil, again?

he asked me. Fixes nitrogen, I answered. No, wait

that’s lightning. I couldn’t remember what the snow

does except for cover the soil, cover us, cover the

living and the dead.

My father looked at me with some pity.

I saw then how his flesh had fallen away, how

his farm clothes were tattered.

I still know more than you do, girl, he said.

I am the watcher on the wall.

Before he died he’d said that,

called himself the watcher on the wall,

and it had meant only

that he watched men in bad suits on TV,

and read prophecies about the world’s end.

It had been an old man’s fantasy,

his final dodging of the truth.

Now I saw that he had found his wall.

His eyes were visionary, at last. Whatever it is

that’s coming for us, he’d seen it.

He opened his mouth to tell and I saw the blue

of bones and

the snow came between us and our voices

were silenced, and he could give no warning.


Author: Rebecca Bratten Weiss

Rebecca Bratten Weiss is a journalist, editor, and freelance academic residing in rural Ohio. Her creative work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Two Hawks Quarterly, Presence, Connecticut River Review, Shooter, New Ohio Review, Gyroscope Review, The Seventh Wave, and Westerly. Her collaborative chapbook Mud Woman, with Joanna Penn Cooper, was published in 2018, and her collection Talking to Snakes by Ethel Zine and Micro Press in 2020. She is a two time Pushcart nominee, and winner of the Helen Schaible Memorial Sonnet Contest, Modern category.

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