“Ash III,” digital art by Marcela Bolivar, 2011. Used with permission.

by Simon Perchik

Though it’s familiar this flower
doesn’t recognize the breeze
wriggling out the ground

as that distance without any footsteps
—its petals have no memory left
no scent that can expand into mist

prowling for more darkness
the way moonlight tries to remember
once passing through the Earth

on all fours, sniffing for stones
hidden from where your fingers
will clasp each other sideways

and the dirt still close by
—will smother all that happened
has no past, means nothing now.


Struggling against more turbulence
this broken concrete can’t shut down
and cool—your shadow’s too old

leans down and though the wall
falls closer and closer
it tries to rest your face

—a sleeping face
still circling where your forehead
mingles with rocks and weeds

—even your grave goes to pot
lets anyone point at it
as if sunlight could urge you

to spread out inside a sky
that has no days left, is lifted
face to face with the ground.


An everyday rain is not enough
but even so these strangers
walk past your grave

and below the black umbrellas
cling to each other
as that homeless cry

slowly closing around you
and though you can’t hear it
the sky is already dark, sags

and under the small rocks
that come here empty handed
—such a rain loses count

is no longer in pieces
could comfort you
remember its darkness.


This path could be its echo
clings to your exhausted cry
and once around one shoulder

climbs, covers the Earth
already those footsteps
mourners will use

follow as emptiness
and not answer anymore
or look :this path

coming back with stars
that no longer listen
over and over.


And though it’s dark these dead
still remember how every stone
smells from dirt that never leaves

becomes a sky without an evening
they can hold in one hand
and not the other—they call out

with valleys :cries that have forgotten
to rise far off as sunlight
and trembling—these dead want snow

side by side, already flowers
and lowered, opened at the throat
and no longer breathing.

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.”