Those Last Few Moments of Light, by J. R. Thelin

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Those Last Few Moments of Light
Those Last Few Moments of Light: Poems of the Dead Boy
Copyright 2023 by J. R. Thelin

These haunting poems in John Thelin's book, Those Last Few Moments of Light: Poems of the Dead Boy, are like shadowed photographs excavated into daylight. Is the unnamed dead boy just "another kid like me," "only a figment of our imagination?" No matter because in these poems he is alive, in the coming-of-age world when "the sky is a soft gingham dress," in the world of ball games and church, hopscotch and Flash Gordon-Superman America. Part meditation on time and reality, part homage to an era that no longer exists, Thelin captures with narrative intensity the hold the past has on the present. "Well, there you are and there we were." An unforgettable collection.

—Pui Ying Wong,
author of Fanling in October
Poet Bio:
J. R. Thelin
Sample Poems:
Popsicles        The Dead Boy of Winter        Reverie
Misfit Magazine:
Thelin's book is the latest winner of the annual Slipstream Chapbook Contest. These narratives are all told from the point of view of a young boy in grade school, the dead boy, who seems more dead in the sense of having once existed, now a memory and who has morphed into soemthing completely different. No one can escape the past, Thelin least of all. All told with verve and wit with a sharp edge to them.
> Misfit Magazine

J. R. Thelin

J. R. Thelin J.R. Thelin's collections of poems include Last Cha Cha in Albuquerque (2017, Main Street Rag Press) and Breath Into Bone (2010, Small's Books), as well as two chapbooks: The Way Out West (2005, Concrete Wolf) and Dorrance, Narrative, History (2004, Pudding House Publications). He has served as co-coordinating editor of the eleventh MUSE and as poetry reader for Shenandoah. After working for many years in Development, including stints at Colorado College and Washington and Lee University, Thelin recently retired as senior development researcher from University of Virginia at the end of 2020. He is married and lives, writes, and walks in Buena Vista VA.



The dead boy likes to hang
at the local general store.
With his lungs half-exposed,
he inhales the entire counter
of baseball card bubblegum,
those pink flat sheets,
almost as flat as the cards themselves,
that taste like instant cavities
to me, but which he loved
to wad up in his mouth,
working on a fake pink chaw of tobacco
like Don Hoak or Don Zimmer
squatting & spitting near the bag
at third, poised to pounce on a drag
bunt or lunge at a screaming liner.
Today the dead boy hides

inside the cooler, puts his face
flat against the frosted glass
and wigs out Mrs. K. when she reaches in
for a six-pack of popsicles,
her siren-scream nipped short
as she shakes with liquid relief
when she sees it's only the dead boy
whom she taught piano for years,
his wiry little body itching
to fly from the hardwood seat.
Nowadays his fingers don't run

up and down the keyboard. Instead,
he strikes middle C for hours,
his ears lit up
with that ever-repeating, ever-faithful
sound of the spheres.

Copyright ©2023 J. R. Thelin

The Dead Boy of Winter

His laugh like pellets of ice
raining down on us,
the dead boy floats
through and over winter.
He can barely be seen on overcast
days that merge with his greyness.
We look up and stare
as if a satellite passed
overhead. You sense it's there,
a distant but steady force
beaming north, south, east, and west.
The dead boy's like that.
Even with his ashy pallor,
he radiates—what?
Filaments of low-level heat?
A still hanging by a thread interest
in life as he knows it?
Or maybe he likes it that we care
enough to pummel him with snowballs
hastily packed by our frayed mittens.
He could retaliate:
fly from kid to kid and push
our faces down into icy slush,
but he dances in the air instead,
a spark of light that flashes
like a charge
from a shorting battery
that makes my father
moan and curse.

Copyright ©2023 J. R. Thelin


The dead boy shoots himself
in the foot with his cap gun.
I drink from the backyard
hose, a trickle of hard

water hanging off my chin.
Bees swarm toward the sun,
and the sky is a soft gingham dress.
The dead boy sniffs the air

that disperses with smoke, his fair
skin gone to grey, his eyes lit
with bits of grit, like the glints
of gold I tried to pan

from the pre-stocked stream
set up one chilly spring weekend
by fathers of my Cub Scout den.
The dead boy traveled with us, having hung

like a flag from our Chevy's antenna
as we jounced along rutted roads—
heaped with crunching pine cones—
that led to the state park

and the ranger station
barely waking with a groan, stretch, and yawn.

Copyright ©2023 J. R. Thelin