12 Poems—Spring 2015

By Simon Perchik


Every door now is North

letting in the cold though the knob

still corrects for drift, the lost


and the way in that never closes

comes with a bedside lamp

to warm the room as if it


no longer moves, has become

the small hole in your chest

that points in only one direction


to keep you from falling asleep

–with both hands you cling to the dim light

turning you on your side, still too early.






From here, a train will do, freight cars

end on end, overcome with gravel

that needs to be some place else


–you have to leave by yourself

–nobody can do it for you

though you hold one hand in the other


tightening it till the rails

are water and you drift downstream

the way a small stone lifts the sea


as moonlight and you arrive alone

on the cross-ties made from wood

that is not a river to cross, welcomes you


by stretching out, taking you along

with no one where the whistle ends

except the so much time that passed.






Still, it’s gone and though the candle

is still day to day

you can tell from the melt


how much love there was

–what you touch is the long fall

where a sea should be


listening for streams

the way these matches

are following each other,


striking the Earth by cupping your hands

around its emptiness

–over and over opening the ground


for smoke as if after so many times

clump by clump

you could get it all out.






You wait for this blossom to pounce

seize its prey and between each petal

gnaw at the sky –in such a gust


your arms give birth to an afternoon

that would become the fragrance

whose first breath is acorns and chestnuts


and smoke that shines as if the Earth

was once a sun, warmed by hills

and the rocks that no longer move


were left behind the way shadows

now disappear for a minute or forever

though you use your fingers to find a fist


that’s scented with flowers that open

and close in a room made by a gardener

from this small rake and the cold.






Plane after plane till all the pieces

arrive as flowers –it’s winter

returning now to nest and every morning


begins with an ancient chill

unfolding over and over for lift

and mountains though you take hold


try to escape its turbulence

–against all odds you become a breeze

are losing altitude, your voice slows


then stalls, spins and the scent

falls against your chest as snow

that stays in one place and waits.






Without their soft shell your eyes

still talk about the sea and old men

waiting on a bench for some boat


to dim and go out the way the words

for goodbye cling to your eyelids

and each other though what you hear


are the cries for light that lasts forever

as shoreline and what follows

when your eyes close for the silence


the dead never forget by telling you

about its emptiness, how gentle it is

smells from salt and the darkness.






As if the small stones were not yet ashes

you walk with one foot bare

count these graves two by two


reaching out for the naked breast

as some ancient lullaby

pressed against the warm mud


whispering over and over though one word

is always missing, taken from your mouth

till there’s none –in such a silence


you limp, clinging to this smokestack

drained for its marble, its marshes

its darkness and undertow.






Face to face though the first tomorrow

was not yet needed, waited in the Earth

as the promise to become a morning


and she would arrive between two suns

where there was none before

was the nights, years, centuries


your shadow took to darken, clings

till its silence washes over you

carried as dew and beginnings.






Drop by drop, its silence

holds on to the mud and each other

though this puddle sparkles


from tides that are not sunlight

–what you hear are the shells

darkening and their nest


breaking open for more air

the way you toss in a pebble

just to hear its ripples


as the splash from your first day

still reaching for shore, lower, lower

and flight no longer possible.






Compared to its actors in love

the movie darkens with The End

and though the stage no longer moves


you reach behind the blackening pit

grasp its gigantic monster –four eyes

four lips, four arms opening and closing


devouring itself and the screen

not yet covered with flowers

asking you to leave though the usher


has heard it all before, says it’s safe

even with the lights on, with the grass

and aisles growing over you.






You need rain water, boiled

till the splash makes it to shore

and the egg becomes a morning


–pots know this, the hurry-up

and wait the way your hand

clings to the still warm shell


as if it was once the soft light

falling off the sun, is moving closer

to where a chair should be


have a shadow to follow it

by reaching across the table

surrounding it with a darkness


that smells from moist leaves

and the sap when this table

had corners, sides and a lid


lifted for smoke that waited

for the night, was hidden in small fires

that slowly eat their dead.







With just a rifle, lean, taut

and though there’s no helmet

one eye is swollen, keeps staring


which means the boots no longer move

–in such a silence you hear

a marching song, still warm


from the foundry when this toy

was molten iron and step by step

setting fires with ink from letters home


black, blacker till there’s no stars

where North should be –that

and why are you holding it so deft


helping it guide each night down

in the dew you dead still listen for

is spreading out behind this dam


half hillside, half being built

with so many unknowns

rusting in place, one by one.


Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan ReviewThe Nation, Osiris, 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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