10 Selected Poems — Winter 2018

By Simon Perchik


Ear to ear though the tree

darkens the way this saw

no longer drifts alongside


in the open, clings

to wooden boats and the dead

you can touch with your tongue


once it’s morning and the blade

has nothing to do, already

half rainbow, half riverbank


low over your mouth

opened so you can read

between the lines, send back


a note smelling from wood

older than anything on Earth

stretching out till the dirt


overturns and you drown

swallowing leaves, branches

days –you cut with hours


that know each other

that bind and by themselves

filling with clear water.





For a time, carefully reduced

as if these shoes were watertight

and each price tag pointing out


–you don’t know where to dig

though dirt must mean something

motionless under the exact place


that could be anyone

the way nothing in this shop window

is left standing, needs more dirt


more and more and the hillside

that always falls backwards

refuses to get up, no longer tries


and all these passers-by two by two

in your arms already opened

for so many dead from just one grave.





With each hand the same turn

you learned to take apart

put together, tighten


and though the wrench holds on

the tire’s slowly going flat

the only way you know how


–you let go, circle

spring-like, for keeps

around the pin-hole leak


already planes falling into place

as a training song from the 40s

louder and louder, struggling for air


–at last the tire goes down

half under the ground

where you need both wrists


the way flowers wilt and each breath

takes in more smoke, still black

on course, end over end, almost there.





Not a chance! the gate

tries to open though rust

was already mixed in, drifting


till the Earth lay alongside

too weak to turn back

the way the lines on your palms


still flow close to riverbanks

and longing, struggle to pull

this mud soaked ironwork


into the darkness and turns

that stayed in the air

after it became the sky


even in the daytime

–you almost see the gate move

and with both hands, yell


you’re working on it, yell

anything! how the latch

is just about to loosen, yell


so the fence breaks apart

wading in dirt no longer the rain

that never lets go all the way down.





Again your shadow loose in the attic

as if more light could help

coming for old letters, broken frames


not sure what was torn apart

has healed by now, hidden

as sharp corners though you


still expect the some days

to climb alongside and the height

save them –it’s storage work


later work –Esther and you

on a pony that almost remembers the dust

it carried all the way down.





Everywhere at once, aimless

though the day lilies

no longer make a sound


are used to how the sun

can still be found in moonlight

that has no rain left to comfort


with warm stones and the mist

that is now your heart

is circling night over night


as some giant red cloud

listening for the scent

from when a flower held your hand


too long and the calm

that has its fragrance :your echo

faint from waving goodbye.





Not yet feathers though you

still breathe in the smoke

trailing from some climbing turn


hidden by clouds and weightless

circling this tree allowed at last

to shed its bark, warmed


the way each leaf expects

a better life somewhere, takes hold

with its wings around the Earth


carried up hillside over hillside

spurting more and more blood

from your eyes, your ears


till their shadow flies from under you

escapes this time, hovering overhead

as branches and evenings


and further though their roots

come by to remember why this sky

ended its wandering and closed.





Pulling this bowl to your lips

as if traction was needed

though it must know by now


why you dig with the same whisper

that once beat back the wind

and the sky changing direction


–you lift with what became

the moon, still crawling in its cage

one end to the other, that no longer


struts in the open, is terrified by air

wants to cool and in your throat

crumbles from exhaustion and splashing


–you make a spray so this spoon

will empty in your arms overflowing

as grass and so many fingers.





The door knows why it opens

and still you’re not used to it

could be a sound from the 40s


gutting this radio

the way all skies darken

fill with distances


–you listen for the slow turn

the Earth never forgot

though a hidden crack


keeps the room from exploding

and costs you nothing

has already started its climb


spreads out –with both arms

you begin to crawl

and not yet an old love song.





You begin to sweat, for hours

the way these stars poke through

and everything has come true


–it’s a knack you learn

quickly, pulling up small stones

–that’s it! afterwards


you bring back those same days

as evenings that no longer

say anything, the darkness


is enough, lets your fingertips

pin down the Earth, hold it

drain it –afterwards


you put back its night

as once and never again

though your shadow too


falls from a sky swept away

for rain and your hand

wider than usual, gone.




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 Osiris Poems published by boxofchalk, 2017. 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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