Last Meal


I do not have a poem tonight,

but here is a rock


fish seasoned with lemon

pepper and dill, sweet

potatoes and a glass of wine.


I live in a sturdy house

on a quiet street

except during the summer


when the firecrackers

announce it’s time to refuse

sleep the way


a fish refuses the hook’s pull

toward daylight.


My father sits down with us tonight,

elbows on the table and famished.

His body was cremated


last week, his ashes left alone

in his own sturdy house until I arrive

to scatter them at sea.


How much of a meal do we save

for the dead? How do you say to them,

it’s okay to sleep now?


or—refuse sleep, eat what you want?


or—there is no meal, just these

words, all for you?

W. Todd Kaneko is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (Curbside Splendor 2014) and co-author with Amorak Huey of Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury Academic 2018). His recent poems and prose can be seen in The Normal School, Barrelhouse, Gulf Coast, The Rumpus and many other places. A Kundiman fellow, he is co-editor of Waxwing magazine and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches at Grand Valley State University.