Six Poems
Simon Perchik

That tree must be lost—standing alone
—you can tell from the way it leans
and though this window is closed its glass
lets in the soft cries :these leaves
convinced they’re looking up
—it’s easy to lose your way in the air
and everything in motion—its roots
must have heard your eyes
filling with dirt as if the dead
still hold hands in a circle—you can see
—all by itself—it’s tired
as sometimes birds till your tears
warm one another and the sky
rest in your arms—you will carry it back
counting the leaves, around and around
for leaves and closer.

From a rowboat :a letter
still trying to leave—further down
alone and from my hand the current
slows—the goodbye will harden
into water and forever
and from the Earth
pulled step by step: these oars
have lost the road, lost the sea
and your name laid out on this envelope
—you will arrive
but my arm holds on to a few hours
to the warm splashes—the oars
openly their embrace and letting go
though the river almost stops
almost your lips and rising.

What chance have these clouds, climbing out
limping—they hardly notice
the sky can’t heal itself, is wandering off
for hillsides—these old injuries
grow back—there’s no place cleared
—even the birds
hovering and the air not ready.
It’s the risk, by instinct, coming back
aimlessly running my hand over the dirt
to find something you don’t hear anymore
that hurts when held
that will arrive, become the rain
still scratching for a home underground
—become those planes hunched over
on their way to the sun, bringing back
the fire, the mountainsides
and breaking. What you don’t hear anymore
is splitting in half, over and over
a waiting, a taken away
and in my mind. And in the evenings.

This dirt overflows, its rim
stirred hand to hand—they surround
—I never see the wolf
lifting its head and alone
to something not yet the mountainside
—these kids already into bank and climb
and the loop working its way to the center
trapped, the leaves torn apart
ferocious as ever.
I never see its eyes turning on edge
—these gloats and yells
something that will become a softness
saying let’s go back, some clouds
must still be there
and from habit my arms open out
hoping someone would want them
—one hand threatening to die
around and around, to drown in dirt
alone, and reach the howling.

How cautiously the fans, this air
still dangerous, wiping out all traces
—the room cools and my ears
slowly at first—the engines
sound smaller, beginning to heat
—the gloves stinking from cracks
and dry blood—this air
—you’ve seen it done before, don’t
get me nervous—closer, I can tell
one blade is gaining on the others
needs adjustment, a knob somehow
—this air wants to come back
is gaining momentum, grinding down
and the room smaller, my arms
smaller, almost forgotten—you’ve seen it
a hundred times, a fan in each hand
held out—just off my left arm
all those wires go on burning, to my right
the wall doesn’t care—the room
cold now, cleared for weather reports
and headings—this air still lost
picking up speed, any minute now
breaking the paint and door.

Just off the ground and the mower
needs adjustment, its wing
icing again, its heading
relentless, the crew struggling
—a sudden turbulence :dark clusters
gutting the air—from high up
I need more gloves, a shallow turn left
or right or everything I touch
bends into a battered circle :the blade
as if my breathing too, full throttle
and under this cowling, end over end
doors frozen shut, the men
can’t slip clear—there’s a small knob
and the wing dips almost as painfully
skids to dodge the vague stones
the sky I’m sure I saw.

These grew out of the photographs in The Family of Man as published by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The entire collection of 482 poems is scheduled for release this fall.

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