Ice and the afternoon
reaches shore the way each grave
grows a far-stone and nights

that have no ships, no barges
and salt no longer beautiful
–you come here alone

to feel at home, naked
sure the sunlight is melting
flowing over her, darkening

in the small stones
that never ripen
cluttered this sea

with your fingers still wet
carried off on a plank
held close while you wait

for her to become water
let you drink and her mouth
freeze with you in it.

Because rain no longer dries
these finger-bones reach up
the way all hillsides are forced open

just to water a single fire
with open eyes –are emptied
by winds, pull the sky along

letting it fall away
as cries and riverbanks
though every tree now

is hollowed out –you
are not buried here
there’s no wood on the ground.

Though every night is sand the slightest breeze
stretches out on this rickety bedside table
starts a fire in your chest :a single landing light

and the smoke from some plane
circling tighter and tighter, lost
with you in its mouth as songs about waves

oceans, butterflies –you need this beach
–a waterline can save you now
let you softly down, tied hour after hour

to the widening stone overhead
no longer the silk dress that opened
with just your breath and in your arms

the charred guitar still trembles
when wood comes too close and string
touches the pillow or your fingers.

This grave gives thanks and it’s sad –her name
hollowed out from the bone in your body
not connected to any other

though help will never come –your throat
gave up everything just to dig itself in
and yet this dirt still changes hands

empties the Earth into a few small stones
already a necklace for this headstone
coming by to make her look her best

as if you were going somewhere together
dressed warm with flowers and kisses
where your arm used to be.

Tied to the ground this shovel
relies on the heights
though it’s your arm spreading out

–you whittle off pieces
the way its long handle
shaped the Earth

opened its slow roll-over
for wood that will become
a second sun yet February

is already a single day
warmer than all the others
expects you to remember, dig

till a hole rises alongside
as a few hours
where none was there before.


Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013). For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.


Image by Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota (Frozen Shingle Creek) via Wikimedia Commons.