Selected Poems—Fall 2018

By Simon Perchik


You are quieted the way this dirt

no longer steps forward

is slipping through as silence


though there’s no other side

only these few gravestones

trying to piece the Earth together


where the flower between your lips

is heated for the afternoon

not yet the small stones


falling into your mouth

as bitter phrases broken apart

to say out loud the word


for eating alone :a name

curled up inside and pulls you

under the lettering and your finger.





You never get used to it

left and right –moonlight

all that’s left on your grave


each night heavier, bitter

with no place to fall

sometimes as snow, sometimes


counting on pebbles from others

all night bringing stars

to strike the ground over and over


covering you with shadows

and still you’re cold

come here as paths and distances.





To live like that, listening

as the sudden dive to the bottom

and though your mouth longs for a sea


death happens wherever water goes

–you hear the rain passing by

with shells and salt flaking off


from a dress that is still new

covered with moss and grieving

–you slip your hand through


as if each sleeve over and over

is filled with moss not yet blossoming

where the branches at the top


dig themselves in, opening the Earth

and the small stones that are your lips

filled with falling and thirst.





And your throat circles down

the way every kiss is emptied

though not all lips have this power


–pressed against a hole in the Earth

you begin where each hillside gets its start

–women know this, decorate their breasts


with kisses that never leave

grow those feathers that water from ice

remembers as the sound smoke makes


and you sing along till a small bird

flies from your mouth, louder and louder

not yet grass or at your side.





What you hear is your chest –with each crackle

more rain tearing holes in the sky

still struggling to open –your heart


sloshes around, growing salt from grass

kept wet the way dirt takes the shape

you use for shadows when there’s no water


–you stretch out naked as the ocean

on and on without stopping to breathe

or dry or arm over arm become the last


the slow climbing turn still missing

circling to calm a nothing beach fire

going mouth to mouth to burn itself out.





Slowly the glass, half filled, half

melting down for a slipper

not yet hardened into light


is flickering the way a moon

still sets itself on fire

then changes into taking its time


and you become an old woman

with a cane, around and around

as if this rim at last remembers


overflows and from a single wave

you grasp for air, for a warm hand

and step by step covered with ashes.





You feel for corners the way this rug

makes the slow turn into one day more

and though your fingers wander off


it’s already flying out your arms

becomes the place that is not a dress

emptied by the dim light from one hand


clinging to the other –this worn down rug

has no glow yet, just the darkness

with never enough sky –your each caress


lowers the Earth toward you –arm over arm

not yet an afternoon then a night

that lasts a life time side by side as later.





You pan for rocks though every breeze

smells from wood lying on its back

and between your fingers a stream


ripens as fruits and berries that fall

swallow the Earth hand over hand

the way beginner stones learn to splash


so nothing will float free, is melted down

as the darkness you hear spreading out

to dry and further you sift for anchors


and all around you the cold ripples

drip into your breath, lay there, whisper

to come up together, say it’s over.





Before it could endure its undertow your skull

hardened, was silenced with its marrow

kept calm by the half once seawater


and the other taking longer

though everything makes a sound

gathers you in, the way rust on all sides


scratches –with both hands you comb your hair

as if it still smells from a gate

that’s no longer iron down the middle


and there you listen to it opening

–from both sides reaching out for air

that sounds like shoreline, further and further.





Word by word the page clouding over

as if rain would wash the dirt from her face

flower though nothing will change –the sky


still covered with fresh dew not yet the stones

that forage forever  as the scent grass gives off

when paper is folded over and over and over


and each crease drains, outlasts its emptiness

taking away, making room in the Earth

for this old love note, your forehead.





Though she is covered with glass

there is no wind –it’s her sleeve

waving across the way an alpine stream


is pulled from a cemetery stone

for the unending free fall

over where a hole should be


–you never see the nail

now that the water in the photograph

has darkened, begun to drain


make room inside the cold wood frame

for grass, give up, disappear

and under the dust her arm.





You didn’t wave back though the leaves

still circle down, spread out, finish

as the sound a train makes waiting to leave


–this empty lot is their home, heated

by the scent rising from dirt

getting ready to greet its dead


and one by one burn the sky brown

then red then with the same smoke

take away your arms with the pile


–it’s a rake you’re holding, the Earth

all day opening its hand

for a cloth dress, a charred house.



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 and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at

To view one of his interviews please follow this link


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