Poetry

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 www.simonperchik.com.

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

 

Breakups

By Mark Belair

A brown paper bag on the sidewalk
hard by a fence held shoes—it was

torn, you could see into it—and by
the next day the tear had opened to

disclose that they were the shoes
of a man and a woman, the day

following’s development that some
of the sounder castoffs were missing;

then a sudden, lashing, overnight rain
blew the bag away, only wet scraps

left around the hopeless entanglement,
laces loose and drooping, heels snapped

off, soles worn on one side
or cracked.

*

Two loose sunglass lenses
lie face down—you could

rock them with your toe—
staring at nothing

but cement
while their trashed frames,

struck blind,
face the sun.
 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

ice

By Mark Belair

in the new england winters of my boyhood / ponds froze in the fall / and their surfaces stayed hockey-hard / until the january thaw

then their edges softened for a week and reformed / a foreshadowing we soon forgot / in the clash of pucks and sticks

but come spring / damp ice would drench our dungarees when we fell / then one day it was suddenly done / the season over / the pond edges mush

and we’d stand there / not resentful / for it was always a good / long season / nor eager / as swimming in the pond seemed eons away

no / we’d just hold blank stares / as we shifted our weight / and hefted our sticks / our wool sweaters a little warm / the pond safe to walk on / but no good for our sport

each of us / side by side / silently mesmerized / by this still / watery / moment
 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Summer Radiator

By Mark Belair

The cloud-softened summer sun
bathes an old black radiator, one
cool to the touch, its heat
on hiatus, each
arched, filigreed radiant
in the round-shouldered attention
of choristers in a cast-iron choir, a choir
holding silent
until fall, one night, arrives
with the chill
of a strict choirmaster
to conduct its conduction
back to blasting, soul-warming life.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Come Silence

By Mark Belair

The caption said the dead man
had been trampled in a crowd.

One boot was gone
and his long-sleeve checkered shirt was torn.

Had he worn his boots and long-sleeve shirt
in case it might turn cold?

Or had he felt, that morning,
rain coming on?

*

The oxygen machine pumped
as it had for months

until his daughter, who an hour before
helped him bear dying—

It’s all right to let go, she whispered, crying,
You’ve done your job

heard it working and—its duty done—
snapped it off.

Then a hard silence
fell, one

that widened
the one her father,

still in bed,
already inhabited.

*

Being here, alone
with the rain

tapping the roof shingles
and streaking the windowpanes

despite your death,
I remember

you once said
this

was what
you believed in.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Sunset

By Mark Belair

The sun, already
set behind our mountain,
casts us into shadow while keeping
the mountain across the valley in daylight,

the evening we now
inhabit made to seem a past
concurrent with a luminous present
beyond which yet higher mountains rise

in a bright, if
hazy, future, this snapshot of
all time as one time an impression
we savor until the sun, as it must, fully sets.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

The Wedding Picture

By Mark Belair

Back in the 1940’s, the name big bands—the Glenn Miller, the Benny Goodman,
the Dorsey Brothers—all played the covered Pier at Old Orchard Beach, Maine.

From the beach, strolling arm-in-arm with my father, my mother said she could
see the nighttime pier, strung with lights, swaying from the jitterbugging bobbysoxers.

Then again, she
was in teenage love.

My teenage father first noticed my mother in St. Ignatius Church when she
looked up the aisle he was coming down and he saw those big brown eyes.

Soft, needy eyes that made him—harnessed by the early loss of his father
and early care for his fragile, melancholy mother—feel released inside.

For what those lost eyes seemed to long for, he knew, from experience,
he could provide.

In one wedding picture, they stroll, arm-in-arm, as newlyweds, up that very
church aisle, and if you enter the picture you can almost smell the flowers,

but also salt air; can hear the recessional organ music, but also
the breaking ocean, the distant swing band, the creaking pier.

This black-and-white photo—crumpled, creased, scratched, torn—that
encodes the remedial, dangerous, black-and-white love of the young.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Umbrellas at Night

By Mark Belair

From this high window, the dark ribs
of a fruit man’s overlapping umbrellas

below—tan fabric aglow—curve
exposed, his patrons, as they move

in and out of the spotlit shelters,
silhouetted on the taut canvases,

the fruit man the center of a shadow play,
the figures expanding and shrinking across

the umbrellas like voices lowered and raised,
shifting shapes you could use to dream up

any number of dramas, even after
the patrons fall to infrequent and

the fruit man’s shadow, through the night,
grows still on a stool.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

market

By mark belair

going to “market” / the unguarded / refrigerated warehouse to which we delivered our hosed-down crates of vegetables / was the highlight of our farm boys’ week

we’d load the rusty pickup / climb in on top / then watch our hot / stripped / briefly abandoned fields recede into prettiness

upon arriving / the truck would back up until it clunked the delivery bay / knocking us enjoyably about / then we’d roll up the metal door to market’s inner darkness

market smelled of chilled fruit and vegetables more exotic than our own scallions / squash / and tomatoes / lush produce we plundered from cool / stacked crates as

i / wanting to please my mother / worked from a list that she / in her innocence / routinely gave me / as i’d told her it was an old farmers’ tradition for all to help themselves

not that anything was missed / the bulging crates all headed to restaurants and grocery stores / while my buddies and i each filled a mere brown-bag’s worth

but my petty thievery nevertheless nagged at me when i’d bite an apple / peel a mango / crack a coconut or / worse / watch my

whole unsuspecting family relish my misbegotten goods / their pleasure sending squirts of catholic sourness through my unfolding soul

then one day i overheard my mother / on the phone / telling a friend about market / including how i thought the pilfering i did was permitted / and isn’t that sweet

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com

Early Spring

By Mark Belair

Snowfall
this enchanting

falls from clouds,
it seems, dissolving

then reforming:
heaven

held
earthbound.

*

Their southern slants
bared of snow

while their northern slopes
hold white,

these gentle hills
roll perfectly

poised
between seasons—

still
change itself.

*

With the spring-fed lake
spring-cleaned

of algae, bright
schools of minnows

appear above dark predators—
so clear is this water—predators

who break surface
when they must, the spared

minnows scattering and re-gathering
as they must,

the lake water
restoring,

as it must, to deep
calm.

 

——————–

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Alabama Literary Review, Atlanta Review, The Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poetry East and The South Carolina Review. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room (Aldrich Press, 2015); Night Watch (Finishing Line Press, 2013); While We’re Waiting (Aldrich Press, 2013); and Walk With Me (Parallel Press of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, 2012). He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize multiple times. Please visit www.markbelair.com