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Seven poems.



Why I Bite My Fingernails at the Movies.

Crows fly sideways in the wind
tomorrow takes care of itself approaching intimacy
wings flap with difficulty toward the present
a place for everything and all out of place

form characters of a most ancient script
or glide on a confluence of codes
where there is nothing, one sees something
the spot where even earth sprouts feathers

they know that poetry is better than working
the book drenched in shadow
daylight moon flustered by clouds

waxing gibbous looked similar here
keeping me who I am is not the way to my heart so
soft, contiguous, thanks you for not listening


Bees Beware!

In lyrics dredged up from an unresolved past
and desultory chat about the even vaguer future
we heard slow sounds of bodies softly touched with paint
prognosis shifting from moderate to severe

they thrive on our abundant sunshine and identical days
the ritual worship of ancestors and forgotten gods
their grammar aspirational, at worst a mystic mistake
an insect buzzing in the privacy of your ear

oh nation of bees, your emergency queen consorts with
none but the most rambunctious of passing ghosts
they soak the moving air and its unspoken holdings

but unlike what others call flash bangs
such calm disasters star almost no one
warnings fail in everything but not in metabolizing life


My Other Marilyn Monroe

Stamped papers still in order
again today forgot to die
my eyes a bit blurrier now
and partly belong to the blurry fields

accepting whispers from all over creation
in casual self-radiance eating
a childish dish of caramel custard
declares all beauty now ancient or post-onging

the unfinished reader assigns herself a part in the past
her body an indelible surface exposed
to common air that hides this truth from you

maximum dawn exerts some pressure toward futures
lingering fastidiously on the wire
you can see them anywhere out of this window



My skin is not, has never been my own
it found me naked on the ground
the heart’s chamber a cenotaph
the demonic rhythm of its beating a plausible fiction

muffled clatter of ping pong balls
I keep wondering if I’m meant to pursue
the past ambles by in kitten heels
leans over to wipe the mirror clean

I have no intention of trying to sample
our present life for future reference
optical cloth caressing reflected human skin

brushed east one day, west another
my certificate in the dreaming arts
meantime the scale of sunlight: monumental


Down with Origami!

Forced by the circumvention of time
bethought more angels than you could ever handle
then boom!—a glimmer of voices under heavenly rain
advice unbought for love or money

m’lord dug up the bones of your ancient glory
in this sheet the crease resembles a mountain
later melts into a warbling landscape
this life is not the safest hideout

you’re always slipping out of its flaps and folds
but not to have the last word
I insist on my despair, bitch

in fact I don’t deserve the added overtones
curled between the margins of every book I stole as a teenager
and shelved at random in the house of migraine


Season Two, Episode Six

Naiads lie, the alien said
a wordless voice from beyond the bedroom
and with death at ease in our midcentury modern
the future continues to burn

those days when rain never stopped blowing sideways
and the book flew into your room
the happiness there was deafening
it told us everyone’s still invited

but not all will come right away or ever
in those simpler days we did what we could
fixed the moon inside a frame

some quiet located 0.2 miles down on your left
cushioned against the dangers of a dream and locked away
in a poem sounded slowly backward word by word


Synopsis of the Last Poem

The world stays wicked
not a promise but a threat
the thought of your thought
a story getting longer, action over or not

a shadow flickering on the ceiling
stays stuck in its unhappy boyhood of words
sex is a dragonfly hovering
things move, shadows so long in progress

just do what everyone else does
but stop to feed the companion
your well-seasoned memories

some people will always be children
their bodies not made for the superfluous
the unknown world that disappears with you

Barry Schwabsky is a poet and art critic living in Long Island, New York. His most recent book is a monograph on the painter Gillian Carnegie, recently published by Lund Humphries, London, and a new collection of his poetry will be published in 2021 by Black Square Editions, New York. His “Reader’s Diary” is published weekly at Tourniquet Review. Nigel Wheale reviewed his Heretics of Language for us here.

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