Paul Haenel

After Death

––in memory of Jacklyn Potter

For a reason she doesn’t know, the Portland Oregon police want her arrested. As does an FBI agent in North Dakota, a young man with a great future who’s itching to shoot something other than cardboard targets. But you can sense she doesn’t blame these few people who don’t know she’s already out of their reach.


For the moment she’s taken up residence in a wedding cake––third tier––not far from the bottom and with enough above to imagine she might be safe for a while.


Last week she was hiding in a Japanese painting, had climbed a long way up a mountain path, and it was cold. Below were railroad tracks in a deep gorge and she sat for a long time watching trains going by in both directions. She doesn’t fully understand the reason she’s on the run––now, of all times. She could tell one or two friends a few things about what it feels like not to know what one can be guilty of, but she senses they wouldn’t believe her.


Two months ago at Christmas she was peering out the window of a Bavarian hotel room in an Advent calendar––fourth floor, 23’rd day. Who would’ve known it was she, with all the snow flying into everybody’s eyes? She remembered the great labor in arriving at and great reward in her desire to stay where she’d been for so long, but enjoyed as well leaning out the window looking for a person of substance bundled-up against the chill. She felt glad to see one or two when the occasion happened and a trail was left in the snow she might follow, even if she knew she couldn’t.


But this is not such a bad wedding cake, she thinks now, reminded of her own wedding when she was almost breathless and then sad when she recalled most of all wanting everyone to tell her she was there herself and what it had been like. “Was I beautiful?” she wanted to have asked, but never did.


Eventually she thinks she’ll contact someone to let them know where she is: “Hello . . .” “Yes, who’s this?” “Beneath the pine cone in the leaves behind you, for now. Be careful where you sit.”

Paul R. Haenel is a Pittsburgh native who has lived in Northern Virginia since 1981. He graduated from Penn State University in 1975 and subsequently spent four years as a German linguist/voice intercept operator for the US Army Security Agency (ASA)––later INSCOM––attaining the exalted rank of buck sergeant. His service included sixteen months in West Berlin. He attended George Mason University in the late nineties in the Master of Fine Arts program and studied with Eric Pankey and Carolyn Forché. He has worked at Morgan Stanley since 1979. His poems have appeared over the years in numerous journals, including The Wallace Stevens Review, Antietam Review, Maryland Poetry Review, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, 10X3 Plus, and others. The Washington Writers’ Publishing House published his volume of poems, Farewell, Goodbye, Wave Goodbye, in 1994.



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