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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

If Nothing Else

by Joseph Milosch

If nothing else, L is the form
the tombstone makes with its
shadow. Already, the approaching
evening brings a thin fog to the
edge of the cemetery. Already
the leaves of grass shiver in
the cool air that forms the breeze,
rolling down the rows of stones.
Nothing else comes to this place,
full of dates and names, except
the lone man with a book and flowers.
He sits and leans against the front of
one marker, and without knowing it,
he forms the L similar to the one that
the tombstone makes. Opening
the book, he reads, and after turning
one page, he rubs the grass as if he
was reading in bed with his hand
on the hip of his lover. Simply,
he could be waiting for nighttime
to rise around him like a shroud.
Nothing else happens. He reads and
strokes her grave until the evening
darkens and the fog gives him a chill.
Then he stands, checks the flowers
under her name, and kisses his fingers
before placing them on top of her stone.
There is nothing else to do but leave
because the L in love is not a map
that one follows to navigate through
the space that death places between
two people. As he turns towards
his car, he hears a shrill call of the hawk.
Is that his grief, rummaging through
the four chambers of his heart,
which makes him bow his head
before he looks at the great bird,
gliding to its nest in the tallest palm?


—First Runner-Up ($250 cash prize) in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.


SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

Joseph Milosch

graduated in 1995 with his MFA from San Diego State University. He is the author of two collections of poetry, both published by Poetic Matrix Press, Landscape of a Woman and a Hummingbird (2014) and The Lost Pilgrimage Poems (2004). Awards and honors include nominations of three poems for a Pushcart Prize (“Among Men,” “Letters from Paul,” and “The Way It Was”), the Hackney Literary Award in 2013, an Excellence in Literature award from Mira Costa College, and an Honorable Mention for his poetry in The Chapel Jazz Poetry Contest in 1999.

His first chapbook, On the Wing, was published by Barnes and Noble as a regional publication; his second chapbook, Father of Boards and Woodwinds, was published by the Inevitable Press for the Laguna Poets Series. He was a finalist in the Tennessee Middle State Chapbook contest in 1996 for his chapbook If I could Imagine. He won the 1997 Tennessee Middle State Chapbook contest with his chapbook Among Men. His fourth chapbook, Now She Bends Away, was published in 1999 by Inevitable Press for The Laguna Poets Series.

Milosch says this about his poetry: “Before I retired, I worked 40 years as a trail locator for the Cleveland National Forest and as a construction inspector in the private sector. My poetry draws on those experiences as well as my experiences growing up in the farmland north of Detroit, Michigan, and my Army experiences during the Vietnam War.”

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury