12 Selected Poems

By Simon Perchik


As if a rope, half bone

half pulled from your chest

the way this dead branch


tells you everything then closes

though the wood won’t burn

–so many things are made from doorways


and she was left inside

with nothing to sit on or a stone

that will fall by itself, broken off


to die alone, whispering goodbye

for two and this dirt not yet

just another hole that weighs too much.




You don’t read how weak it was

though this wind torn composition book

steadies its lettering for afternoons


the way beginners wave their arms

making room for the Honor Roll

mixed with stone, not yet the pages


–these dead are used to it :words

put together by a still warm crayon

and you too no longer move


leave them nothing except an after all

in writing and on these sheets

hillsides to fit inside your name


holding it between your fingers, higher

and from the struggling dirt, over and over

making mountains, clocks, emptiness.




You caress this dust as if it’s stuck

drains under ripples and sap though all goodbyes

keep warm in a dark lake at sunset, reek


from varnish, hunted down by small stones

by dying wood and from the rot

and enormous rain paws the scent open


the way she once stood still –the room

is familiar, shattered by lips, cheeks

–as for you it’s just another door


somehow dry, no longer the one by one

you leaned against then left behind

away from everything, both hands at once


and yours is the only loneliness still leaving

–what you smell is when she first came in

and stayed without turning her head.




You walk past as if the first death

was a bird –enormous feathers

half stone, half outworn, one by one


though they still need more time

could calm these dead, spread out

airborne, older than the number 10


than this hillside letting its small footsteps

fall standing erect, frightened

–you come here to listen for eggs


for echoes, for brothers, sisters –it’s useless

flying so close, wing tip to wing tip

till a moon is all that’s left


bringing you its black, covers you

already one hand on your shoulder

counting your fingers out loud to 0.





It’s a simple thing, you weep

and though your eyes are silent

they don’t reach –what you see


is your heart covered with stones

that have no mornings either

except far off where all mist starts


the oceans are grieving on the bottom

holding down your forehead

–so easy a flower could do it


say in its face-up way, Leave!

there will be no more kisses

and from your mouth all Earth


overflows, becomes lips and distances

–that’s why nobody asks you

lets you imagine you see her clearly


knitting a blanket, a white one

rusted needles in both hands, you

walking by, already thorns, roots.





Exhausted, on its back the sun

–from so far, brought down

by its unbearable weight


not sure it can be lifted

cool, become the moon again

and without stopping, listens


for the darkness, holds on

to all that’s left –you look for her

as if every night is mixed with mud


and mountains not yet ashes

though you can make out her shoulders

still warm in this enormous silence


split in two, growing hair

and lips and flowers, holes

madness and nothing else.



So many dead! let this pebble find her

and its own never ending emptiness

to guide you through these graves


–you almost hear her undress, far off

half matted hair, half as if each cave

is filled with echoes –bats are good at it


shoulder to shoulder the way your shadow

wing over wing is uprooted, worm eaten

no longer the whisper between your fingers


and her breasts –such a small thing, a pebble

coming in low, brought down by a death

left standing, holding fast to lakes


oceans, sleep –you sleep on the ground now

alongside weeds and her comb still warm

from edges, corners and mornings.




It’s a struggle though your legs

inhale the vague heaviness

walking around your heart


no longer breathe out

or lower you to where the night

comes down from the ceiling


as dirt mixed with silence

and wood –you’re too weak

to walk the streets –the dresses


are empty and your skin

takes in too much air

would float the way a plank


is salvaged from a shipwreck

to make a likeness, a clearing

you can fall on and her shoes too


will dry –you sit on this bed

as if both pockets are stuffed

with waves, rocks and further apart.




This carpet dropped at your feet

welcomes you though every path

is due a clear reason trailing along


–speak up! spread out, walk

the way great oceans break into foam

just to count while every one here


is devoured trying to go on

as an endless shoreline –we know why

with our fingers reaching up


you turn your head –louder! talk

as if these leaves will never dry

are waiting for you to make a sound


that’s not another number

added to ours –for you silence is enough

but we too have a mouth –tell us how


draw out a breath that will have a place

as if nothing happened –every death

is named for you, isn’t this enough.





You point as if your shadow

dug its way out, cools

surfacing at last in a darkness


once melted down for rain

and one last time

though it’s your finger


splitting open the Earth

lifting it from the bottom

that’s no longer a morning


covered with mud

and distances, has your legs

your arms, your eyes.





What you still carry to bed

is this water coming from a well

icing over, masks your cheeks


and though there’s no pillow

it’s your mouth that’s melting

filling the hole where she used to sleep


–in such a darkness say what you want

this sheet took the white from your eyes

that look at nothing but walls


–you are washing your face with a room

emptied out to freeze her half

where there are no mornings left.




Only slower, that same song, word by word

lowered into your coffin each evening

forwards at first, then backward


for some off-center memory kept smoldering

but why the blanket –face to face

you can hardly tell it’s a lullaby, a voice


still warm, tucked into your crib from a tree

that’s lifted from the bottom, covered

with doves stuffed with darkness –try


listen the way you once did

though this fairy-like hush finds you

again on your back, jumping and running


and under the soft mud some vague happiness

is coming to an end –try! at least remember

the mouth that opened over the wood and ate.




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 box of chalk, 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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