Chapter 16
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Book Excerpt: Code


For weeks, his button. Weeks later,
his button. Left on the bureau.
Dust squirming into its four eyes.
Like every annoyance, in the end,

if there ever is an end, his grew.
His mother was of sound mind.
Not body. He couldn’t arrive in time.
The phone call came during a walk.

His dog pulled on the dark innards
of a flattened bird, wet with rot.
The quiet of chewing caught
his attention. Returning home,

keys still needed hanging. His coat.
Leash. The button—expressionless.
Somewhere, his mother. Of all the ways
to go, laughing is never one of them.

A stranger will cover her. Some nurse.
Some orderly. Is that what they’re called?
Orderlies? Meanwhile, her body, her
bone house. Unbuttoned. Buttoned up.


Copyright © 2020 by Charlotte Pence. All rights reserved. Charlotte Pence’s first book of poems, Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, 2015), received an INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award from Foreword Reviews. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have recently been published in Harvard Review, The Sewanee Review, The Southern Review, and Brevity. A graduate of Emerson College (M.F.A.) and the University of Tennessee (Ph.D.), she is now the director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama.

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