12 Poems

By Simon Perchik



From now on every rain

will be left in the open

as the same rain


and though your hands are dry

you still try to remember

by lowering one arm


as if you are planting a heart

in your own, in a soft rain

unwilling to silence it


repeating out loud

the only word for a long, long love

now at the end.






Though the spill is shallow

you don’t think twice, become a navy

as if every rag smells from salt


and shells –half this table

is covered with songs about land

that melts under your tongue


as shoreline –you pour the morning

a drink and in muddy shoes

let it rot, give up everything.






What comes through no longer moves

is lowered between this hillside

and the way each evening makes room


lets these dead tell time

by counting the shadows

when all the gravestones open


as love that hardened

became these pebbles, sleepless

night after night –you expect this darkness


to be the season when they

grow flowers and one times one

is still both their arms, naked


as if the promise was too late

nothing is going to happen

no one simply gathers stones.






Every love note counts on it, the winter

racing some creek till it melts

becomes airborne, carries off the Earth


the way every word you write

presses one hand closer to the other

–it’s an ancient gesture, learned


by turning the pen into the light

as if every fire owes something to the sun

covers the page with on the way up


making small corrections, commas

asking for forgiveness as waterfalls

burning to the ground.






It had an echo –this rock

lost its hold, waits on the ground

as the need for pieces


knows all about what’s left

when the Earth is hollowed out

for the sound a gravestone makes


struck by the days, months

returning as winter :the same chorus

these dead are gathered to hear


be roused from that ancient lament

it sings as far as it can

word for word to find them.






Though it’s smoke that’s falling

you open the umbrella

the way a magician reaches down


pulls out the missing dove

then waves and who knows what

the warm breeze is coming for


–it’s a trick mourners learn

by wearing a hat, filling it

with flowers gathered up


from the paths waiting to unfold

from deep in the Earth

as some still missing gust


swooping past the way each grave

is dug by the stone standing over it

in a white smock, still in charge


pressing your lips against it

and fairy-like you whisper the name

lifted whole from inside.






To remind you how long before white

becomes invisible –you fold this dish cloth

over and over as if each splash


is wiped with a cry making room

the way an old love song turns the world

still from inside, lowers it into this sink


though you reach down for the arm

that was everything –it’s a ritual

where after every meal you become a hermit


heard only as the voice that’s missing

was waiting under the faucet

while you blow each word out


could hear its light weaken, disappear

though you sit in a small room

with a hole in it, stripping a cup naked


pressing it closer, louder and louder

already gone which means a sea

boiling your hands in its ashes.






You learned to spill by breathing out

make room for the warm marrow

that gives this pot its power


lures you closer, has you sit

looking inside, see how water

begins and ends in darkness


as the thirst that’s used to wood

and longing –spoon after spoon

you stir the way each night now


overflows with your mouth open

and no one to sit around this table

no one to tell what you lost.






And though this dress never dries

it must sense the clothesline knows

there’s a change in the lighting


–it’s your usual rope, lit

by some long ago moon coming back

as a sea, mouth open, smells from salt


from a dress with no hem, no sleeves

no lips where here thighs would be

floating the way each wash fills your arms


with something small made from wood

is holding her night after night and you

breathing what air was left in the water.






And though the sun was chosen

it’s your lips heating the ground

the way this startled mid-summer fire


spits from its belly the smoke it needs

to teach its young to fly alongside

as charred wood from a spot


being lowered for the afternoon

–you can tell by its weight

where the light comes from –a room


a table, a mouth spreading around

something damp that is not her lips

stays with her the way each night


longs for the sea to cover the sun

after it dies on this beach as the word

for an emptiness that sorts the ashes.






You knock as if her headstone

knows forever already ended

though where there was a dress


a flower with nothing in it

presses against your lips

connects to everything else


that’s falling through the Earth

as shards from that last tap

where a door should be


would open and these pebbles

barter like they once did

as the one breath more, gently


softly –a mouth for a mouth

is how it sounds :an avalanche

on its way back up, taking you along.






Everything on this wall clouds over

at first, a window then opens

swallowing the sky mid-air


though here you are, hammering

–this picture frame was already too heavy

is pressing against the glass


as the unbearable sorrow when its likeness

can only be found in wood

where you no longer hear your fingers tighten


from soaking in the sweat that clings to a nail

bent and bleeding then hidden in back, holds on

to what it remembers falling from the sky


as one after another, yet there it is

in drops –don’t you hear them telling you

to step back from her photograph.


Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013).  For more information, please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

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