Simon Perchik

You kneel the way this sky never learned
those chancy turns the dirt throws back
as breezes, still warm, scented

with what’s left from when the Earth
had two centers, one blue, the other
footsteps, half random, half gathered in

for stones no longer moving
–you begin each descent
unsure, around and around, entangled

as if roots would nudge the dead closer
again into your arm over arm waving goodbye
with one more than the other

–it’s how you dig, folded over
and your shadow deeper and deeper
already reeks from far off and wings.

Even with a fence the darkness
never heals, comes and goes
the way each star circles this gate

reclaims the Earth with a chain
half one by one, half
where all the dead clasp hands

and still this wound won’t close
though you cover her cheeks
with dirt that must be carried

smells from rain and loneliness
before burning to the ground
and all these stars arm in arm

clinging to the same small stone
light-years away, crumbling
as if these scattered graves

closer and closer will suddenly return
made whole as the first sunrise
then leave without her or you.

Under the bed it’s tricky, the dust
circles aimless, backward, forward
–a simple breath will pull one arm in

faster and faster till the floor
is exhausted, losing its balance
and curvature though the sky

still practices, reaching out
the way you stave off sleep
by folding and unfolding rags

over and over, collecting throwaways
as if once in the open it’s easier, the dust
would take its place for later

–all it takes is the need not to rest
and though it drives everyone crazy
you have no choice, are racing against

a mop, neck and neck, bending in half
grabbing hold, unable to close
the slow climbing turn in your arm.

You have to let them fall
though once the ground cools
–this toaster is used to it

sure each slice will climb
side by side and even alone
you wear a fleece-lined jacket

set the timer left to right
the way the first sunrise
turned from what was left

–it’s still warm inside
and each hillside –you expect them
to burn, to break apart midair

making the room the dead
no longer need
though there’s no forgetting

why this crust just through
two graves, yours
and alongside in the dirt

brought to the surface
as the cold bread
that no longer hopes for anything.

Although the stove never moves
you add on the way roots
have learned to sleep

where it’s warm –this kitchen
is still expanding, the pots
further apart with no end to it

can already set your hands
on fire –what you touch
are the stars pulling one wall

from the others, boiling
in a darkness that is not water
and slowly they reach the floor

the way light will lower its speed
pace itself so when it finally arrives
you hear nothing but its soft cry

no longer distances –what you extend
is the same heat your arms
are made from, wider and wider

held in place as if the sun
has forgotten how and withers
side by side, too cold, too small.

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” and a complete bibliography, please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.
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