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Evan Stephens Sep 12
Blue-bruise gore slips
down the slick mirror face
of the lithe knife that skips
between the ribs - I've looked
at our old photos again.
Rotting ash knots choke the slow
red rhythm of the blood.

A bird dies against the window pane,
just a small thump in rain.

A ghost-head cinder
leaps from a white stalk
thrown to the gritted curb -
the moon is a wrecking ball.

It's a night to fold away
my thoughts like old sheets.
I let my submerged face swim
like a black-scaled fish in my glass,
before raising it to my lip slash.

The roof tiles peel away.
Bellies of shadow perish
in the autumnal cascade.

This grief settles in the grave-gully
of the pillow. Crooked queasy dreams
rise like foxglove from the sheets.
A thick paste fills my mouth: sleep.
Evan Stephens Aug 31
All the missed opportunities,
the collapsed, balled-up destinies
entwined with small scotch:
the heart misses a beat

when WhatsApp chimes in:
a message from A-----,
who got the wheel moving.
She's had a baby in Dublin,

but is looking to move back stateside.
The whole year waves violently
as it drowns in a Glencairn.
The clouds are fried on a rain griddle,

grease-dark, the outer bands
of the hurricane carcass.
A catalog of dresses sails on down
the long cement string, oblivious.

My little cat sleeps on the red rug,
& my old friend reads the legions
while I pluck at the silver tomb-pall
of my two day shirt.

Turn on the dread lamps,
let the bitter day escape into the vents
of the cyanotic eve - another fell day
chokes itself black into the withered ether.
Evan Stephens Aug 29
Blackly digging in the ten o'clock hour -
the rain already came and went -
the District is dying of moon-steam,
a summer that chokes even the princes of air.

I am mortally alone. My chaperone,
a brimming glass, turns a blind eye
to my piling thirst. Pylons of shadow
gather in the alley like barren trees.

My monstrous shirt clings to me,
accentuating the beer-pounds.
I pray for a swift end to this grit-grind,
a legacy of revolving abandonment.

Numb, dulled, I stare out at the sparse
traffic cleaving to the bitumen, red lights
& bare legs floating by in the wheeling hour,
tone poems of pale flesh and sad laughter.

This is very close to the bottom:
the scotch that scrapes my tongue clean,
the freshly washed glass, the beckoning bed
that promises only dead dreams,
                                                          pillows of sand.
Evan Stephens Aug 24
Thick-lidded Argus
peers across the rain passage:
dozens of glazed, framed eyes
congeal until split with a smoky flick,
tumbling their beige gazes
down onto the spitted walk.

Behind one eye, a woman
cooks her midnight meal:
instant soup in bleachboard
emerges from the microwave throat.

Behind another, a light screams
from a fluorescent hip, ramming itself
into the bruised wall color
before dying in a waving pool
of yellow-milk curtains.

I open the maple door and hunt
for the sweet wax-wet relief,
the glass-arch scythe: Scotch.

Grass castles spring
from the cindered lawn,
the Argus-faced building fades
into rectangles of dulled evening,
& cross-hatched breezes launch themselves
at a ****-haired moon fracture.

Happiness is a quay across the sea.
In this uncaring world, she is a gold reef
in the earth's slow stone:
my failed escape, an inaccessible chance,
a remedy for the thin blood
in the blue universe of the middle-aged vein.

Beer, wine, scotch,
it all goes to the same place -
I have lost patience
with this unsolved heart.
The trees tremble with shadow-spoons
under the Argus building's corpse-pale
fearful installations. Terrible shrieks for help
balloon obscenely into laughter, before
they are gobbled roughly into silence.
Evan Stephens Aug 22
Dearest,

I sit with your plucked wildflowers,
in the near blue hours that ramble past
like a coach-and-four. You return
"upon the morrow” and I have said
your name aloud so often
it is thin as gold leaf.
Crow's speech marks the new day
under a gunmetal fog-dome
that slips spells in the sinking heat.
The gray river sidles along the city;
I'm out of time. I send my love.
I wrote this in 2009 and only just found it. Edited slightly.
Evan Stephens Aug 19
Up the black, sticky stair,
break into the wet street
just before eleven; a girl
with lopped lilac bangs snarls
in profile while curling beams
seep from her cell.

I walk home, avoiding my reflection
in the shop windows, mumbling
the pine bird sermon I heard years ago,
when I was drifting drunk
in the fire yard, full of honey and ash,
bottles popping in the pit.

Let the night slide on -
let the black gull draw down -
The door closes so softly
on that old smile...
The sheets on the bed
grip me with soft, cold hands.
Evan Stephens Aug 14
This is my left hand in the mirror,
twinned and pinned to the glass,
hanging in the black valley while a song
rips me along the old perforations,
& the whole moment splits -
the light wavers over the mantle,
a ball of ghost, a past thing,
memories sold away in ingots.

This sordid exorcism hinges
on night pictures that I can't shake:
a backward lens, a frozen belt-step,
a long lawn with green marrow.
No, that dream is just watery pulp,
like when you squeeze a plum too hard
& the juice sticks and stains
in the white noise web of your fingers.
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