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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