15 Poems — Fall 2016

By Simon Perchik

The night behind the night
is closing, makes its descent as mail
though this envelope has lips

is familiar with darkness, can see
your throat become swollen
from kisses —you spit, over and over spit

as if her letter finally arrived
from daylight into water
where each word somehow weighs less

can easily be pulled across the page
as the river where your arms
are reaching under the surface whose seal

has been broken so many times over
lets her breasts float up, waterlogged
the way your forehead is now held

and with both hands the ink
passes through your heart
as the silence that’s left.


You right the nail on this wall
as if it were a boundary stone
was already used to distances

before the house was built
board by board inside a picture frame
so the shingles can’t fall out

make it impossible to prove
crows once gathered here to mourn
the way ancients preserved their dead

—it’s your usual photograph
wrapped in glass, flooded
as you would water a beginner tree

once its likeness sets up shop
getting it ready to stay
take hold a wall that is in need.


You wipe your face on this mirror
the way a cemetery whitewashes its looks
has the mourners take one last swipe

before their eyes empty and leave
—you lost everything! the forehead
once was yours and each morning now

you water your hands, more than enough
see only your likeness where there should be
light, dirt with nothing more to give.


You warm these ashes one by one
the way every shore now ends
in pieces, piled among your graveside stone

as rain —from the start, its great height
narrowed, became a stream, overflowing
with the wishes mourners leave

to break the surface where moonlight
is now a sea, could guide you back
then grow a second moon, keep you company

hold your hand, pull one night from another
that is nowhere on the calendar, whose shadow
is still covered with darkness and gathering.


Before each mouthful this spoon
rests beside the bowl
as the shallow turn a shovel

learns to widen, sift the dirt
for washed out roads
—it’s your usual breakfast

facing the window, humming
over your shoulder
to a canvas bag growing wild

alongside the woolen socks
and rope for the hole in your chest
—you pack till there’s no room

for cardboard and the dress
still wanting to go somewhere
still telling you it will be back.


It was magic though what’s left
are the tears —together
they cover the ground

the way these headstones come by
to drink from a river
where there was none before

—you wave a cane that opens
another, further and further
as curtains and doors and stars

—in such a darkness every stone
is flint, becomes the fire
that counts you in, over and over.


You fold the canvas as if each corner
needed more darkness and the tent lowered
with the same yank that in summer

began as the warm breeze and stars
that won’t let go —it had a constant slope
content with twigs no longer cold

and rain that couldn’t fall any further
though this rope becomes a wick, is lit
the way your arms are tightened

no longer open, barely remember the nights
and how —it’s a small bundle, taken away
covered with thorns burning to the ground.


You squint the way one eye still aches
was shaped by rising water
as it flattens out in the silence

that wants you to make good
without asking why or what for
—it’s how moonlight works, half

disguised as tears to soften the ground
half as a sea that long ago left
all these bottom stones uncovered

as the mist where their breath used to be
—somebody owes them all something
though you come by to pay down one

that still has its arms around you
is pulling you closer to shore
by wiping the foam from your lips

—you darken the Earth to get a better look
and with child-like fingers count out loud
the letters in her name.


There is no leak though your lips
drip as if the kisses they still feed on
will slip and once in your jaws

stay wet, covered with milk and darkness
the way a mother nourishes her breasts
with lullabies and honey kept warm

as the drop by drop that becomes an ocean
where night after night you are held
close to shore —just born and already

you were taught to dig with your teeth
devour the heavy perfume from under the tree
growing in your chest as snow

widening, wrapping around you as salt
bleaching the stars, the soft dirt, the shovel
upright in your heart so nothing is left over.


You fill in the name then prop it
with the same black ink
that will widen for the underline

and keep the word from falling
as your shadow still holding on
to the pen and your fingertips

that stop by twice a day
and each evening draw a name
on wood the way rings in a tree

keep count how many times
you circle her graveside
to keep it from moving, warmed

under a sun made from paper
whose silence goes on living
as just another word for two.


It’s all they know —these drops
fall, then feed —by instinct
coil around their prey till a puddle

oozes out the ground —rain
will never stop swallowing you dead
though for a few hours at a time

you become water, make your escape
as mist where there was none before
rising the way your tears even now

are burning out between your fingers
as the stench you need for ashes
and forgetfulness —you become a sea

ankle deep, with tides and a shoreline
where something will happen
someone will turn up pulling a boat.


The man in the mirror pictures you
covering his forehead with a cap
the way a grave is held in place

by a lid piecing together his grey hairs
makes you lean closer to the glass
—it’s a ritual, a tight fit

and though you tilt the brim side to side
the dirt stays blanketed with ice
and every morning now —the man facing you

wants you to close his eyes then sing to him
over and over the same lullaby, help him
remember the darkness, its little by little.


The lamp she drank from never dries
is kept on though its glint
still remembers when this cup

was lit by boiling water then darkened
for clouds and the turbulence
when you would reach in, hands on fire

and among the coat hangers a dress
still warm, dangling, slowing down
snared, swallowing the sleeves

—from this light a tide still goes out
as the hot glue keeping the cup open
fastened to every coast, every rim

stained with its emptiness and your mouth
coming back every few hours to touch
where her lips should be.


Before paper becomes paper it already knows
a great weight was needed :ink that will drift
into a sea as the silence mourners leave

for bottom stones though you dead
can tell from the stillness a boat is near
were given a ticket the way gas lamps

now line these streets so each grave
is lit, is fastened to the ground
by those footsteps from someone

who offers their hand disguised as a note
asking you to come or let it in as rain, puddles
drenched, dripping from each word and fingertips.


Listening among its slow turns
you hear this flower sometimes
luring the sun closer —by noon

the dew will be gone, swallowed whole
while the sky waits for rain to come back
ripen, become the scent lovers feed on

when apart —you hear these laments
as seeds still in the air, breaking apart
and mornings alone —it’s the sound

you dead trust, slumps on its descent
then waits in the ground as those footsteps
moving away from each other.


Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The B Poems published by Poets Wear Prada, 2016. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

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