As every midwife and the Earth is bent
this migrant worker grieves then firmly
first the head --the lettuce
has no arms, no legs, nothing but that cry
from dirt and leaves spreading out
as if they once were air
were lullabies and evening baths.

I lean closer though nothing sleeps
inside this huge, brown bag
with room for my arms
for these leaves reaching up
to name another child

--the holes are for its eyes, the lips
and this mask as every cup is passed
in pain, made holy.

I hold this lettuce tighter than Medusa
still imagines the cleaver fixed in stone
or that her Pegasus
would never fly from such a wound

--from such a wound comes wandering
--field to field though he hears
forever and the crying.

Again the colors return :the sun
paired with their orbit, flower to flower
and the migrating winds
back from nesting on feathers
–from that distant snow
so many reds and yellows whose first meal
is the warm light and rain

–we drink this milk to begin each year
and our yard again head first
enfolds into that fertilizing song
these birds learn from their wings
from their caves in the ice and air

and we are returned windswept, matched

with the fire that knows only winter and winds
again house to house :this flower
carrying the Earth aloft
and under each soft wing more sweetness
not yet red or yellow or snow –each year
more petals –as if we were going somewhere cold

I hold your hand and the year
naked, wet, wading through tears
–the same small morning each Spring
we plant another circle, a song
over the small grave, count the blooms
sort the arriving stones.

She sits as if on its way
faint --a cradlesong lost for hours
and the roads are everywhere.

Under her blouse the lips
don't move --a horse drinking from her breast
takes the bit to its mouth, leaping
as leaves toward winter still stampede
and around the warm tree
delicate hooves, red and brown and distances
--the tree too, soaking from her heart
how white the roads are, how dry

--any minute now, the flat stone
clinging to her torn blouse
closer, closer
into her lullaby and lifeless arms.

This sea as every saddle
--a crazed horse gnawing each raindrop
and I begin to count, take attendance
though-- it does no good, the rain

still smells from salt, from snow
--even winter is lost, sniffing my wrist
as if it came from a warm room
and a flower, maybe by December.

I strap to this great sea
a pail filled with feed :a class, tiny desks
set adrift, 30, 31, 32 :the waves
bolted to what might still be
those cramped chairs or from the beach
my heart waving back to something it can’t see.

No one sees the hooves pick up the scent
--the sea delirious, foam everywhere
--sweet water! swirling under those numbers
--arrows louder than afternoon bells
and under my skin the halls
the chalk, the falling away.

These bricks almost to the top
won’t make it down, footsore
offered a warm plate, a table
a lamp smelling from crust

from bread for saints and halos
and under each loaf more ashes
–my thumb all night gathering the crumbs
the sun they will become

–already there’s oceans, glowing
as if Earth too comes here
or its sister –great waves
clinging, their fire crumbling

and under my feet this chimney
steeper and steeper, without the darkness
the coming back –already there’s a line

where my finger cut into the bread
–there’s smoke and these helpless bricks
beginning to spin :a wind

once underground, lifted into orbit
adrift :a gesture
washing over these sand-like shards
over these fingers and tears.

It’s been rain and rain covered
with cinder block –against my cellar wall
I trace its nest till the moon
at last remembers where I was born
–there were two and snowing and the wall

is warmed by moonlight when I turn on my side
following, nearer to the sun
–they keep watch, a pond must be near
and a small hill.

It’s impossible in the dark
in these blocks holding each other
by thread-like streams
–all their tears weighed down
and never enough light to find
my birthday scratched with a fingernail
–there’s blood inside this wall.

Someone is being born and the cry
that goes around from mouth to mouth
wants to be called by the name
for cinders held together
–that first cry has two names, one
sounds like rain
the other must be near.

Again this snow, its cry
seems to come from a bird
from a simple sip at the headwind
and melting cramp --I have forgotten

plant empty jars, opened boxes
--it's useless! a branch from nowhere
and the sun's cut through :a scalding rain
half feathers, half ashes, half gravestones

--I forget, rinsed cans and plates
still buried, filling with snow
and the Earth each Spring heavier
an underground stream somehow
wandering away --I water the lost
--I water and from my other hand

and under the snow
this raging hillside tightening
--I still collect cardboard flaps
stuffing lids and bottle tops
wait at the holes the way I once called out
sifting each damp shadow.
You were always thirsty.

apocryphaltext Vol. 4

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The New Yorker Agni, Apocryphaltext and elsewhere. For more information, including his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” and a complete bibliography, please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.



seven poems by simon perchik