And Then There Was Death

By John Brantingham

Jason and I spent that whole long summer day
hiking downhill
toward the Kern River

where they told us we could see a waterfall.
It was there, of course,
but we missed it, wrapped up as we were

in a conversation about the nature of love
and whether the cosmos demanded us
as humans to reproduce ourselves.

He said yes, and I said no.
but I wasn’t
quite sure I was right.

I took a slug from our flask,
and he did too.
Then I jammed my hands in my pockets

and stepped on a branch about as wide
and thick as my leg,
rimed in that year’s snowmelt.

I balance-beamed my way across the chasm to the bank,
not even considering the fall.
Neither did Jason.

When he reached the other side,
he told me that he thought maybe I was right,
that maybe we had a duty to anyone living

but not to create new life. I suppose it doesn’t matter.
Jason is dead today. I am not.
Back then life swirled around us like overspray,

and we were so strong and sure and far from Death
that he didn’t even bother to tap
us on the shoulders as we stood on his far shore.


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