“Clothespins,” photograph by Christine Patterson, 2014. Used with permission.

by Simon Perchik

This dirt still mimics sweat
lies down alongside, unsure
your lips would quiet it

though the finger that is familiar
probably is yours –could be enough
has already learned to point

–in time it will silence
even your shadow
without pulling it back down

as sunsets passing by
no longer some shoreline
unable to stop for these pebbles

struggling to rise together, take you
by the hand and without a sound
recognize the gesture.


With each glove almost the same
You look face to face
For a place to jump

–you don’t see the bridge
though these weeds
are used to winter

slip from your fingers
the way this sky
no longer has room

and each raindrop
suddenly white, already stone
grown huge :each floe

inscribed and with a single name
warms this hillside
midair, brings these dead

a river that flows again
filled as if its shoreline
is pulling you down, shows you where.


You try to imagine the mirror
though there was an understanding
the jacket would not show through

and you could lift your chin
into the same wingspan
that hangs over this frost

just now coming in
already in front, same place
same time and at each get-together

the jacket tags along
as if it and the skyline
for a long time had been one

could reach across, cover your arms
with ice and any minute now
–what year is this? your shadow

still wants its back to the sun
already melted down
so it can leave even in winter

as that single-minded descent
sent ahead
and everything open.


This still warm shopping bag
emptied the way all sculpture
reminds you what it lost

though when you step back
what you see between the jars
is its dried-up riverbed

shaping the Earth, its breeze
just now forming
doesn’t yet have the need

for those same airfields
you look for in grocery aisles
take from the shelves

these damp boxes side by side
where you say nothing about rain
till the air you breathe out

has nothing left, by hand
you pull from its place
the sky you saved for last.


Step by step each morning
is everywhere at once, closing in
and though you count on it

you begin to bake instead
takes classes as if the sun
has room for another sun

and its crust at last break open
for air –after each funeral
you learn to make crumbs

–with just two fingers
held close the way the Earth
is emptied by a small stone

kept warm in your mouth
and once set out with you
closer to the ground.

omega man

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poetry has appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The North American Review, Poetry, The New Yorker, and many others. His work is collected in twenty anthologies, most recently Almost Rain (River Otter Press, 2013). Library Journal called him “the most widely published unknown poet in America.”