Joe Dresner has had poems published in the UK: Poetry Review, The Rialto, Ambit and
Stand, and also anthologized in Stop Sharpening Your Knives.


Pharaoh posed his question casually, but with a note of urgency suggested in the very formulation in which it was phrased, just as you might speculatively type a grave concern into an Internet search engine to see what comes up. Meanwhile, in the seraglio: the sound of rain without any actual rain, three different types of ham, fallen leaves on the continually revolving escalator. There is the suggestion of a dynamic movement from the centre and into the blessed margins and back again, but the shocking eyes are focused away from us, as if they are playing for someone outside of the picture, in their own time. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that it all happened to me.


That was the end of the punishment, Pharaoh intoned, but desire endures, even now, forever seeking alternate routes. Tonight will be different, he continued, taking my hands in his and drawing them onto his lap. What you once thought was a boundless sea you will find instead to be a colossal lake. And the meticulous paperwork the day filed will be audited by the night and be found to balance, so although they stand at the door and knock, let them knock, let them knock, he concluded, as I leaned out over the end of the balcony down at the gently swaying pampas grass far below.


The closer you lean towards it, drawled Pharaoh, the more you will find it resembles a frieze, with the interaction of foreground and background creating the illusion of internal movements, although there is no indication of which direction, if any, it is progressing in. You will eventually be disqualified by a sort of technical default. You were ahead for a little while. There is nothing else to do but return to the ancient farms you came from. The smell of bread greets you at the little road. The cyan sky arches far above you. Winter descends suddenly here. The butterflies arrive but decide to stay and are so beautiful and are so still that they begin to resemble flowers, the largest one over there, on the frozen fountain: a rose locked in ice.

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