There’s No One to Witness: Featured Poetry by Edgar Kunz

March 5, 2019 | 1 book mentioned

Our new series of poetry excerpts continues with a poem from the debut collection by Edgar Kunz, Tap Out. Kunz’s poems are laconic, but also remain fleshy and full—the result of detailed lines that arrive with a good deal of punch. There’s a real sense of love and loss in this layered poem; how it begins with the elegiac “There’s no one left to see his hands.” Kunz cleaves the line at the perfect moment; we can follow the sadness of that idea, or we can dig deeper and ride the rest of the poem as gets more literal. Kunz’s poetry is worth a few reads—so feel free to see the reward of both approaches.

“My Father at 49, Working the Night Shift at B&R Diesel”

There’s no one left to see his hands
            lifting from the engine bay, dark and gnarled
                          as roots dripping river mud,

no one to see how his palms – slabs of callus
            from scouring the long throats of chimneys,
                          hauling mortar and brick – move

in the fabricated light. Thumb-knuckle
            thick and white as a grub where the box-
                          cutter bit. Split nail grown back

scalloped and crooked. The stitch-
              puckered skin. And when they fold into and out
                          of themselves by the steaming faucet,

when they strip clean, the tap water
              running black, then copper, then clear
                            into the grease-clotted drain,

there’s no one to witness the slap
              of a wet rag tossed in the break-
                          room sink or the champ of gravel

in the empty lot. How the stars dim
              as morning comes on. How a semi downshifts
                            on the overpass and the shop windows rattle

as it goes.

“My Father at 49, Working the Night Shift at B&R Diesel” from Tap Out: Poems by Edgar Kunz. Copyright © 2019 by Edgar Kunz. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

is a contributing editor for The Millions. He is the culture editor for Image Journal, and a contributor to the Catholic Herald (UK). He has written for Rolling Stone, GQ, The Paris Review, The Atlantic, Esquire, and the Kenyon Review. He is the author of Longing for an Absent God and Wild Belief. Follow him at @nickripatrazone and find more of his writing at

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