12 Poems—November 2019

By Simon Perchik

You can’t tell from these clouds
why this afternoon was set on fire
is burning through some lullaby

you’re singing to yourself
by gathering a few leaves, some twigs
for the gentleness falling out your mouth

–you dead know how it is, each hush
must be buried on the way back
with lips that bleed when rinsed in rainwater

leaving a sky that no longer takes root
is drifting into its hiding place
and each night listens for the word after word

returning as the small stones around you
that warm your hands, that listen the way smoke
reaches out from ashes and step by step.



It’s easy to fake her shadow
–you face each wall till its overcast
begins to fall as snow

fills the room with footprints
that reach for the light
before it leaves this bedside lamp

camouflaged as the curve no longer warm
–it’s simple, turn your head and the wall
goes along though each corner

is always winter, left open
where the light from her breasts
covered one hand with the other

to keep from freezing, stays
the way each shadow long ago
lost its echo though you forget

still listen for this door to open
to hold this room together till it arrives
as the same cold only colder.



You whisper as if smoke
still follows some plane
that left it behind

–mourners understand this
wave goodbye to your words
by leaning closer

the way fires start
though each stone left here
will collide with the sun

–no one would notice
it’s two in the afternoon
and all Earth is warming itself

lighting up the sky
no more than ever
hears you talk louder

say where in your mouth
a kiss can be found
came for you and stayed.



How could a moon so dim
see the room being taken away
–the door was closed from behind

as if nothing will return
except to light the stars
with evenings though the bed

stays empty, was uprooted
pulled further from the wall
now mined for its darkness

where each night pours sand
little by little through the blanket
over a room that died.



To not hear her leaving
and though this snapshot is wrinkled
it’s carried off in a shirt pocket

that never closes, stays with you
by reaching out as eyes
waiting for tears and emptiness

–you remember who filled the camera
except there was sunlight –a shadow
must say something, must want

to be lifted, brought back, caressed
the way a well is dug for the dead
who want only water and each other

–you try, pull the corners closer
over and over folded till you are facing
the ground, the dry grass, her.



To the dirt that no longer moves
you offer a mask the way a flower
over and over is readied for mornings

where time begins again as stars
sensing honey and more darkness
–by evening your death

will be used to footsteps one by one
broken off a great loneliness
returning row by row as the small stones

cut out for the mouth and eyes
to sweeten it, ask
where you are going by yourself.



Though there’s no sea nearby
this sidewalk smells from sand
no longer struggling–you point

where the crack will come
when you take your hand away
letting it lie in the street

–what drips from your fingertip
is one wound bathing another
with evenings and shores

covered with the inhuman cries
from small shells still in pain
scattered and not moving.



Slowly this coral
braces for the back and forth
by changing colors

beginning with moonlight –in time
the leaves become tea, gutted
the way an old woman with beads

weighs your palm for riverbeds
then spreads each finger
whose only memory is the darkness

that helps you breathe
underwater till it burns out
smells from emptiness

and standing in a circle while you drink
from a cup filled with some meadow
overgrown, forgotten, all at once.



Without the map you make a turn
the way someone pawns a coat
and butterflies disappear

though you remember the road
before it forked, became a valley
and the town, driving through

with the trunk propped open
helping you count over and over
to ten, half someone’s breath

half moonlight pressing against the hood
to open it, let out the wings, the road
and how much longer.



Don’t look around –it’s this conch
whispering back, keeping you awake
the way sailors embrace the stars

with rope when the rigging loosens
as the coming wave
falling to its death in your ear

–a nameless shell holds your hand
so it stays wet when lifted by moonlight
swollen from the darkness it needs

to flood the Earth, let go the railing
jump from the afternoons –you should look
for piling to carry away

on your shoulders as the voice
still circling overhead, almost a sea
almost all from your eyes.



You swallow head down
the way this hillside
sets for some far place

as evenings –it’s safe now
to drink from the birdbath
then throw your head back

purified by the pebbles
now gathered in a circle
as if they were the ones

you dead listen for
with your eyes closed
–in such a darkness

water becomes distance
finds the place in your mouth
for a field where a plane

skims by to cover you
as mist from its descent
still burning in the ground.



It was a birthday gift, sent alone
the day before your heart leaves
for a place that’s safer –a book

on travel, what to listen for, by yourself
in walls that let you look back
while your shadow is taken away

–it’s too soon! the ribbon is still splendid
will spend the night the way a sailor
learns to tie huge sails between each arm

stretch out, not yet rope, clinging to a sea
from a boat that’s lost, is closing
while you embrace the dark gray pages.




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.com. To view one of his interviews please follow this link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSK774rtfx8

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