​​H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L

P A U L   W I E G E L 

Paul Wiegel writes from his home near the Fox River in Wisconsin. His work is forthcoming in The English Journal and he is a past winner of the John Gahagan Poetry Prize.


This is each child’s first death.
After some time, 
you recognize the similarities
between this moment and 
the others that exist
before deciding how you can carry 
more things than you are able,
or that vinegary responsibility of 
thinking and not saying anything. 
It all feels like action, but it is nothing.
You wait longer, 
and it starts to feel most like 
what children learn when they play at
sleeping on the bottom of a swimming pool. 
They create their own isolation
down there while all the things 
continue up on the surface.

This is each child’s first death.
Even then they understand the solemnness
of water and of dying, of all that can come to pass
in each small moment of waiting. 
They know that everything will
look and sound different underwater—
the muted calls of adults
and the warped rippling of the trees.
In that moment, the children 
really understand how time 
seems to rest just with them
leaving aside everything above.
But this is how we all renew our days—
each thing we look forward to is 
that same small baptism, 
and the sacredness of expectation 
surrounding us.