Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan
Review, The New Yorker and elsewhere. Readers interested in learning
more about him are invited to read Magic, Illusion and Other Realities
at this site that also lists a complete bibliography.
As if I could blind the man holding these leaves
up to the light, who walks in the open
who even carries identification
who every few steps taps the trees
impatient with the work
or some number -he's into the millions: the dead
leaning against each other. I
am the expert on eyes
as every stone has learned to speak
by hiding our last breath
--why shouldn't I have thrown that rock!
How else do I say
everything that flies is sacred
is feeling its way into the distance
into that last morning held up to the sun
--how else will that man
spare this bench: floorboards, an exact replica
a monument to all those footsteps: the cleansing
ordered by the Suffolk County Health Commissioner
and them word pest
next to names on a paper he signs
then walks from the room
from the Earth gassed by his man
who comes for the gypsy moths sent up each Spring
as a dove might find a leaf to rest, its claws
tightening onto its beak: nothing breathes
except these stones -he picks out my rock
as you would litter, or me
trembling under this bench
--he knows these boards
and what to name a wanderer: the epithet
that demands their death
acceptable to an entire County, to the world, but you
know how eyes break into bits if a page
has one name on it. So many millions: you
know the route, the huge truck
coming back for this bench.
Across my wrist, a fan
impatient with an arm
wobbling through another heart
--I have so many hearts
and yet my watch does all the work
keeps records, does the dreaming
--once every summer
it wakes in front an iron stove
as a child might a mother's bed
--a feverish alarm
keeps the walls from boiling
--I shut my watch
make an anvil: your hand over mine
shapes what will cool--who would believe
our legs, eyes, hair, arms
are made from snow: gears slip
till suddenly the night
turns towards our lips
squeezed red, singed red
as every cinder from that first sunset
still tries to find its way in the dark
--we practice over waxed tiles
that hold each other by the wrist
--on this night every year
we sip a black, slow coffee
jammed with ice, with the snow
each raindrop hears forever.
I'll unwrap the suit
in case there's a wedding
or I'm invited to the city morgue
likes something new.
I'll re-set my watch, wind it
the way a fresh harness brushes a horse
--only a warm knife can scrape
just the pain from bread
from this butter no longer sweet
harder than wax
--I'll hold the worn-out side
like a page read again and again
in a room kept cold.
As if words too can go bad.
I'll keep the window open.
Who knows when the dark wants to leave
--all night it walks on my blanket
and aimless mourners reading side to side
will follow the corpse for years
--the crisp, linen suit! and the thin tie.
No, I won't hang myself or set a place.
Who would come to this darkness for old bread
except the morning, always starving, in a hurry.
I'll unpack, unpack--my fingers will bleed
from string tighter than gunpowder
boxed and labeled
and warnings from ahead: the suit
has that same label
sewn to get a better foothold
to cover the heart
stiff from the cold--what's ahead
is always sweating past.
I use that heat.
I loosen the door
in case there's a footstep
or a bow to unwrap.
A simple bow: my arms
as ribbon will point to what's inside
knotted for my highwire act
wrapped around a raft
splintering, rocks everywhere.
I hang on, low clouds, thunder
the sunset falling off the Earth, feathers
left and right: not one star
sinks to the bottom--my arms
outcasts, shredded: the two sails
Noah forgot--I'm kept from the shore
to dig only in backyards
where the wells hide
as Jews were buried, like water
used to pipes and sledges and creaking
clinging to water
their only home in this world
--I hang on as if my heart too
a well, tainted
by a uniform, by banners and boots
waving, oiling even the ditches
even the children
--who drinks this water!
I only want to find them
to drain the ditch again
let out the smoke--to rope my arms
around and around as a sail
sees a raft breathe again
--a water still burning the tiny socks
I hang on
till my feet are sore
--I make a simple fist: a knot
for the rope lowered into the dirt :a stake
to measure my own heart
as if I were packing an empty glass
were leaving a country for good, wandering
again with water so heavy it bends.
I keep looking down cups--the waiters
don't joke anymore, the customers yell
--I'm not sure where to dig next
as if you are still turning your head
in some doorway--waving
only tears its sides
--I need a shovel :an envelope with seeds
as stones are baked underground: flowers
throwing their colors on the stake
--I have to guess the spots.
Sometimes I dig without knocking
without a yardstick, each hole
till its clay is fired: ancient jars
measured by remembering those thin envelopes
and their predictions: blooms
bubbling from this cup--each sugar-packet
emptied half by mistake, half in garden
half waving back
--I have to guess the distance, to dig
or turning the ring on my finger
--I have to look for cups: your eyes
trapped in the ruins, the surrounding fire.
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