12 Poems—January 2015

By Simon Perchik


This rainbow is all that’s left

which means the bombardier

is still facing you


and though the rain has stopped

you take back the color that is yours –black

from when you became the first night on Earth


with nothing in your hand to press

except the small stones kicked up for stars

are still fed the darkness they need


to break open the ground for more air

–a glance could save them now, spread

the way flames are wet from crossing borders


in the same formation you dead arrived

to mark the day, build this fortress

put an end to who knows why each well


goes off somewhere after you’re finished

are digging for rain as nothing more to empty

is there on the map that’s now silent


no longer wanting the ground

as something that will lead you out

side by side knowing what night after night is.



















Where others have a throat

you have the need for tides :shorebirds

helping their young find the sea


and though your mouth is closed it wants

a nest that will begin as a whisper

become the long arm reaching out


to keep from returning with an empty shell

as the cry that could no longer hold on

–twice a day someone is calling for you


will light a fire on this beach, asking it

to be patient, the sea will come, lifted

as smoke side by side and forward.







The long black coat passing by

covers these headstones the way all riverbeds

are hidden from the ice, give up land


for its warmth –some darkness

would be enough, would reach the ground

before turning back as the shadow


helping you collect –a few small stones

no longer together would fit into one sleeve

more than the other –with such a weapon


these dead slowly disappear into moonlight

where the heat from far off becomes brighter

though it knows how cold you are


that you go to bed wearing a fleece-lined jacket

are following alone, counting backwards

as if you were returning something.













Every day now when the water boils

you pour it across these leaves

no longer breathing on their own


–they absorbed all its oxygen

and though there are no flames

you make from the clouds a tea


that empties without any answers

only treatments, slowly at first

then darkening, stripping your skin


for turbulence, stirred the way each night

rises from the ground –how much longer

before the fire, before it’s too late


and heat mean nothing –your mouth

still taken along as the splash

between your lips and another’s.







Always, between the strings

you hear the axes and hammers

breaking loose each word


the way all ballads are sung

to someone you know

who will never return –what you hear


is the leveling that has no secrets

lingers in the hum all night

among the lips that know only loss


and you listen to something

that’s always ending, a song about love

that fits into some banjo held tight


till it’s hurled against the wall

and with both fists the words

no longer go together, begin to fall


from what memory was left

when the radio stopped, said goodbye

without moving or you.





Winter is not the time –don’t talk

though it snows a lot and the light

fits all at once into your mouth


as names –old friends arrive

as if so little breath is needed

when a far off night becomes another jaw


lets you swallow the Earth

thaw the ground for all these stars

side by side still falling off this hillside


in rows and where there is a gate

no one comes –you wait for rain

that’s suddenly snow, is playing dead


though once in your hand it takes root

grows into a sea where these small stones

one by one are falling to the bottom


building a shore lower than usual

till the light loses its balance and you

reach out like yesterday, like a year ago


except for the thud that’s now a firewall

between these dead and the splash

heavy enough to be late in the evening.
























You sharpen one hand with the other

though you’ve heard it all before

how every embrace traps the light


these dead feed on, need each grave

closing in on the others, a fireball, the sun

to find its moon in the sound


stone makes invisible when singing

in rows –you hear this chorus as a song

about coming home which means a shoreline


arm over arm emptied into the sea

starting again from the beginning

–in such a darkness you smell from salt


and longing –are torn apart on the spot

by pebbles and mountains within reach

waiting just below the surface.







As always it’s this towel, half paper

half folded over to hide from the window

the water it needs for privacy


–invisible ink! the kind that let the dust

float on by till the room slowly drains

and each word appears as a galaxy


is moving closer to the others

the way lovers use their hands

–you open the note and what drips


explodes into what can’t be said out loud

smashes the glass with minutes, seconds

sings now that it doesn’t matter.













You were just a kid, the newspaper

would fold over and over, easily

from one coast to another


though there was no salt

and you could track the map

by covering it with hillsides


still on the page as moonlight

that never leaves the ground

the way your death is mourned


face down, sifting the Lost & Found

for pebbles, for footsteps to make

another turn that is not the one.







And though it’s the roof that leaks

you will be buried inside a stone

kept wet day after day for the echo


sea ice prepares from the drip

it needs to drain –this ladder

will end with nails and a hammer


where one wall will slip, already

is leaning into another then another

till all Earth becomes the Nile


and you are in the attic, rising from a shore

though it’s the sky that’s hidden, collapsing

empty under the cold rain now ready for you.

















They’re still missing though this tree

waits here for its leaves

returning home as moonlight


where you count the waves

from a shore while some breeze

is learning to fly the way these dead


are now the stones side by side

in close formation still circling down

for the lost, the needed –you become


water, let these dead drink

from your arm, leaving it empty

abandoned, sifting the grass


for a field that’s not from a plane

not from the sun or falling behind

–that’s not wet, that’s the one.






It’s your usual County 481 though your eyes

can’t smell the straight line beginning to open

make possible the slow climbing turn ahead


–they still believe such a scent is the song

brought by a ship run aground for its sail

used, torn, can still be seen in the stretch


that has become your heart –on every side

licking the tar while your eyes

sniff for the lost the best they can.


Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan ReviewThe Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013). For more information, free e-books and his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

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