HALE CHATFIELD I Got Back Exhausted A poem to be read twice in succession I got back exhausted and sat down and poured myself some wine. I thought, Maybe I ought to write her a letter saying "I did that for you; I even did that for you." And then I thought, What's the use? She knows. She was nailing us up with kisses in the kitchen, and all the time that kid was out there, and it was getting harder and harder to breathe. I poured some more wine and decided that in fact I would write you something. Even now you are reading it. You read: the cross was an instrument in wide use for the purpose of executing criminals found guilty of a variety of crimes ranging from theft to treason. You read: it killed by suffocation, as the weakening victim drowned in his own weight, and you are finding it harder and harder to breathe. The boy knew, you said. He didn't look like he knew much, but I took him out and shot him anyway. For you. He didn't look like he knew much when I buried him, either. But he knew enough by then I guess. I thought maybe I'd write asking, "Are you sure?" — but I should have asked that a long time ago, before there was anything to know: before you took me in your arms and kissed me as I reached for a piece of paper to write all of this, and began it: I got back exhausted 21 Chatfield, Hale. "I Got Back Exhausted." The Cornfield Review Special Issue (1978-1979): 21. Available online at http://cornfieldreview.osu.edu. Copyright held by the author.