12 Poems — Winter 2019

By Simon Perchik



You keep the limp, stoop

the way this cane

lets you pretend its wood


can heal, touches down

making contact with the base

though there are no planes


–what you hear is your leg

dragged, starting up

and still the sky weighs too much


is filled with twigs breaking off

somewhere between England

and the slow walk home.




Without a riverbed you lean

feel your way through this dirt

as if it’s her voice you’re after


–for a long time, eyes closed

you empty the Earth with your mouth

darkening this built-up moss


sent off for a stone near water

stretching out to smooth the silence

hidden the way innocent bells


were placed along the shore

with no light to take away

or welcome rocks around her body.




Though her finger can’t reach

she’s telling you be quiet

as if there’s a word for it


shaped by a breath from where

the light on her face was lowered

–shadows know this, let you


lie there, go over the details

–from the start, her breasts

wanting so much to make a sound


cover the dirt with your mouth

pressing against her, begin

as silence, then nothing.




Side by side as if the moon

carries off those buttons

close together and your coat


dyed black to make it heavier

–you let it fall, lay there

–yes, you were in love


sang to birds, to burials

though it’s the moon

coming back and the darkness


it needs to close the ground

that goes on alone

yes, you couldn’t move.




Motionless, on the way out

no longer feels at home

though this single-minded nail


wants the job finished now

wanted a small hole, filled

to silence the song in the picture


in black and white taking her away

holding on –what’s left

will lower the wooden frame


is already caressing the wall

that something happened to

is surrounded by winds and cries


that carry off birds, bent the Earth

and the exhausted nail, by itself

between your fingers and suddenness.




Again one hand, side by side

clawing at your throat

–there’s an egg inside


that can’t come out, sheltered

by the darkness boiling over

till it was time, in ruins


–what you swallow

is snow, a single pill

falling the way all fevers


are healed by moonlight

reaching into your mouth

as a stone not yet breathless


with room for her to sit on

close to the ground

helping and the corners.




You button this sleeve the way smoke

is trained –a sudden shrug

and the night moves under you


can’t see you’re still on your feet

and though they no longer fit

the ground is already a crater


where her shadow would have been

holding on from behind

as a clear, moonlit dress


and the last thing you saw left open

as the slow, climbing turn

that’s still not over.




To grip the Earth you climb

as if this paint

is still not sure it’s safe


and though they’re white

waves don’t last in the dark

–each  rung by now


in that slow rollover

they were trained for, one

to stay white, the others


bleeding as rain and step by step

–this ladder is losing curvature

leans against the house


half ramp, half shoreline

and all these stars

still clinging to sunlight


are used to your hand over hand

and yes, spilling a few drops

the way every sea is filled


overflows, lets you drink

from a sky that will light up

as if nothing happened.




It’s only a few minutes

but they add up as bedrock

and from behind swallow the Earth


whole –this watch is always late

though its slow climbing turn

has nothing to do with this sunset


strapped to your wrist

while the other hand waves goodbye

running into bad weather


as if all it can retrieve

is hillside, sure you will lean back

slower and slower without any closer.




And though the flames are hidden

you still drink it black –spoons

are useless, aimlessly circle down


the way you once added cream, sugar

clouds –you level off so your hand

takes longer to climb back


let the cup burn your lips

as sunlight wedged between –you yell

though no one becomes suspicious


sees the fire starting up again

–it’s a simple first-thing-in-the-morning

so no one is the wiser and sometimes


a darker darkness is lured alongside

where you tighten till this cup begins

its slow turn into madness and your arms.




And though they’re cold

they won’t answer to a single name

from when these flowers


covered the air with stone

and room for your shadow

where nothing was before


–what they want is more darkness

not these graves bunched the way bells

still overturn as that night sky


even you can’t wear for an earring

hear this dirt making the emptiness

somewhere inside your arms.




Agreed! The firm handshake

wipes it dry the way one reef

irons things out with another


circles down as your shadow

already seawater, homesick

and the exact spot it remembers


–that’s the deal, you

become rain while this stone

is run backwards, girlish again


touching everything and the dirt

comes loose, floating past

not yet sunlight and side by side.




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 www.simonperchik.comView one of his interviews here.

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