Justin Hunt


Justin Hunt grew up in rural Kansas and lives in Charlotte, NC. His work has won several awards and appears or is forthcoming in a wide range of literary journals and anthologies in the U.S., Ireland, and the U.K., including, among others, Barrow Street, Five Points, Michigan Quarterly Review, New Ohio Review, Solstice, River Styx, Arts & Letters, The Florida Review, Bellingham Review, Crab Creek Review, Terrain.org, Southword, Live Canon, and The Bridport Prize Anthology. He is currently assembling a debut poetry collection.

When I Noticed, at Last

When I noticed, at last, the seashell you placed on a post behind our house, I wondered how long it had been there, and what it is in me that blinds. You must have found the shell at Huntington, picked it up at low tide— a season ago, perhaps, or in the years of our son. What I would give to know your thoughts then: the prayers I tunneled past in my burrowing. It’s evening now, dusk. I’m out back with a flashlight, making sure your shell’s still here. I’m watching the moon’s crescent slice above our roof, along the tops of aging oaks. I’m watching October gather up the light.

I wrote ‘When I Noticed, at Last’ after spotting a seashell my wife had placed on top of a post by our backyard deck. It was October, dusk. In the dwindling light, it struck me that the shell had been there for who knows how long, and that I’d walked past it hundreds of times without seeing it. In that moment, I understood that I sometimes hole up with my own emotions and overlook my wife’s hopes and longings. The backdrop for all this is the death of our adult son (and only child) in 2009. From a higher altitude, I think the poem is about coming to terms with loss and opening oneself to those who share that loss. It’s about observation and listening. It’s also about accepting our mortality and the transience of all things.