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I read today about a cat in Texas
who was found screaming

& blind, face signed with blood,
rescued under a sun that crawled

through eyelids: flitting, slitted rays.
Small, anguished emblem:

stretched outside the manse,
abandoned by mother and father,

stray, stitched to solitude,
straining to understand.

We are as you were.
O little cat, sweet-armed giants

resolved your misery.
Go chase your little whorls

even as this scant planet
whisks through galaxies

steered by obscured titans.
Behold, friend:

your joys slice at the silence
that once ate afternoons.
I am the Empire in the last of its decline,
That sees the tall, fair-haired Barbarians pass,--the while
Composing indolent acrostics, in a style
Of gold, with languid sunshine dancing in each line.
-Paul Verlaine, "Melancholy"

I am the Empire, in decline.
The elm tree is yellowing;
the rain-arm is broadcasting
from the cloud station.

I am the once-loved voice,
now a tired smear of memory;
the ghost of a market thrill,
a bed of smoke, a red register.

I am the Barbarian, grown fat
after the stuttering blonde pyres
are stilled: finger-flickers of ash.
I am the white noise nocturne

after the rerun is over.
I am the cathode ray,
the scent in the glass.
I am the Empire, in decline.
Evan Stephens Sep 22
White wine bottle on its side:
lilacs pooling under plate lip
in a sudden, sodden gutter
of roughened moon-cloth...

The ice numbs the wrist;
my name is absent on the list.
Quarries of coffee grounds,
are excavated inside my eye:

names are so clear now,
like glosses of witch-hazel.
But what of the empty iris pit?
Linen flocks against stone,

& memory's evergreen hold
is strong: green queen-needles
mixed with the little pink curls
shaved off the inside of the skull.

Cherish the little triangles of skin
trapped by the dial tone collar:
it's all breaking away.
What is happening to me?
Sep 11 · 151
We Held On
Evan Stephens Sep 11
We didn't quite think it through,
did we now?

We just pushed that harrow
even when the fields were underwater.

Now the wires bring us
the yes-no grammar of old love.

Lewd sun, cloud-tumble,
violets dying in the loam:

images lashed to the lens,
the loom, the wine-weave

of the eye... well,
we held on for a while.
Sep 5 · 131
Creeping phlox blossoms, star-blanched,
crawl gently in choir in the thunder yard,
like soft fare for the silver river fee.

Linen immortelle, shadow-bleared,
knotted aegis against a raw, wracking world:
smeary cloth-stalks lengthen duskily.

Rain-pinked palm, sloe-blotched:
tawny token of revival from those
who idle beneath rude thunderheads.
Sep 1 · 115
We lunch on dust.
We wake, wage our campaigns

of mistakes across a quiet,
wary, unwaving old world.

No greeting, no parting,
no arriving, no leaving -

we are jabs in the air,
crudely curbed animal feints,

& then our names are packed away
& left forgotten in a taxi,

or in a train station bathroom,
or in a fray of rain.

Don't think too hard about it;
that, too, is a mistake.
Aug 28 · 81
Evan Stephens Aug 28
New-make maiden, soft as flake,
staring at a flower cake field
as brass-headed bells are bawling:
a cloud’s detonating head rings you.

I have also been reshaped by promises,
& felt the dead-dream weight
across the shoulders. It stings me,
seeing you yearn for the old skin.

A river is ****** inside us,
& grows wider and wider;
the shop registers are singing
after the sun-brunch.

A river is rising within us,
& grows deeper and deeper.
Come, take the tennis court oath with me -
let us revolt in the afternoon.
Finished from the stub of a poem written in 1997
Aug 22 · 272
A Visitation
Evan Stephens Aug 22
There is something coming
out of the summer fog.

It abrades the full bellies
of ill clouds which burst

into sloughing rain slices
that slush and slide in soft slips

& slurs as it slouches
through the soak and sinks

sodden and silent and spent
to the wet-stunned cement stub.

Then, a pause - and it is already gone:
a visitation from an unwanted memory.

Shadows rise and suddenly fall
from slick brick gibbets:

cars throw stray starry bars
of slim dim shine from their teeth.

A palace of broken fog
escapes into the east,

leaving a black tabletop stain
fading slowly on the brain.
Aug 10 · 121
New Storm
Evan Stephens Aug 10
Coifs of lightning disentangle
under a black cloud lattice.

Thunder rustles to rude growl,
bracelets of leaf are trembling.

We're eastbound, hundreds of us
on this loosened buckle

of corrugated silver flash.
The rain attacks the window

in excoriating scrawls
slivering down into a sluice.

Red-shirted woman, run now,
over the yawning pool

that shivers with addition.
Blue-breasted runner, fly,

fly into clay-colored false dusk
that heaves with humid breath.

Escape from this wet hunger
that walks over us so indifferently.

We stumble nightward. Rain laces
our eyes shut. We're alone here.
Aug 2 · 68
I'm Not Here, Alone
Tell me I'm not here, alone -
that I've finally traded this broken meat
for vapor, a stock-share of memory
that wavers through the dusk screen
into a charry blued imbuement -

For a moment, I'm by the riverside
in Paris, eating bread and wine with her,
a small and stony autumnal Eden.
Now I'm dying in Saint-Eustache,
craning my neck into the god-vault...

O reader, I can't lie to you:
I am here alone, after all.
This blood-ended prison twitches
with memories of Les Halles
& Tiquetonne, and that's all.

Paris was, not is. What "is"?:
Medusa's severed head in a cake box;
an anchor of whisky nestling itself home
in the cold iodine of the soul;
my name dissolving into a beard of ash.
Jul 29 · 75
Hell is Yellow
Evan Stephens Jul 29
Here is the piercing sun,
its lean tongue carving us,
etching our unclouded skin.

Under the yellowed fingernails
I'm in the brew hall by the train,
missing my father.

Where are his memories?
When his liver folded away,
where did his thoughts go?

I hope he waits somewhere
in the yellow spurs of air
that radiate around us.

I must go -
my friend is waiting for me.
I walk down the canary *****

into midnight's arms,
gut full of fat blooded summer,
a fission of grief and understanding.
Jul 26 · 55
Ad Astra
Evan Stephens Jul 26
The stars are out:
rhinestone belts
frozen mid-lash.

The wasp-wax sun
broke its last crutch,
sleeps behind the hill,

& the smeary bone-pocks
of moon are slouching
silently overhead.

We are inhabited by the dead.
They live inside us, smoking calmly,
like a recently fired gun.

The vapor is carving its way
toward the envenomed starlight,
yellowed drips, old waves.

This humid umbrella, pinpricked
with the soft vacillations,
briefly covers us both:

we huddle under the winding,
thousands of miles apart.
Your river laps against the stone,

my river floods the pine path.
We chat about lost cats.
Stars are dying despite our spells.
Jul 21 · 71
Evan Stephens Jul 21
"Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
          Time held me green and dying
     Though I sang in my chains like the sea."
-Dylan Thomas, Fern Hill

Under the involucres of yard hazel
I stopped your water when I was ten -

bent over the hidden pump stock,
I unscrewed the round rusty skullcap,

& felt the living nests of wire in my fingers.
Your father was patiently furious

in the fresh dooryard of the old farmhouse
where we played the Winnie the Pooh game.

Twenty years later we briefly crossed paths,
but my then-wife hated you -

you were pretty, clever, lustrous,
your hands full of sly flat smiles.

You threw me Belle and Sebastian -
you'll never know they are my favorite,

because you slid onward to Vanderbilt,
god only knows where you are now.

You escaped into a life,
I flattened under one.

Your imagination stuck me like arrows.
Your voice was glossy with cat-dreams.

You are a comet - you visit twice
in a lifetime, and always leave me astonished.
Jul 7 · 213
"We Are As Clouds"
"We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed and gleam and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly! yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:—"

Dad would have been eighty today;
instead, years have gone by since I ran
the two and a half miles to the hospital
under a burnt, charry October wing

to visit him in his mechanical bed.
He was caving into himself, the doctors
blamed the liver, everyone was scared.
The halls were stocked with floating eyes.

Today the heat gripped the chopped hems
of street and ate away at our feet.
The dish of sky grew gray as mold,
striped with varices of rain that did not break.

Everything waits: Wednesday waits
for Thursday's lip, the moon waits
for the thunderbolt tongue, I am waiting -
for almost anything, anything to happen to me.
Jun 29 · 76
"It Flows Thru"
Evan Stephens Jun 29
is Life
It flows thru
the death of me
like a river
of becoming
the sea”
-Gregory Corso

A hundred thousand red laps
from one midnight to the next:

the valve clutches and clasps
at wet clapping truths

but they slip away like silk scraps
in the black gap breeze.

The heart is no throne, but wrapped
gnarl - the abandoned winter's nest,

denuded strakes of burlap strap
curved and curled into the branch fork,

disguising the lacuna and the lapse.
Does the river gladly pass into the sea?

Or does the sea sip it down, easy as a nightcap
with chill willow and spruce,

another blue vein-line snuffed on a map,
another salt stone silting an unseen reef?
Jun 15 · 101
Full Fathom Five
Evan Stephens Jun 15
Full fathom five thy father lies
of his bones are coral made
those are pearls that are his eyes
nothing of him that doth fade
but doth suffer a sea-change
into something rich and strange

Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act I, Scene ii

I was a blue baby.
Umbilical noose drawn so close,
a rope of blood. The starving air
never loved me.

Now my father is air,
all of them are in the graves
of the air, the transparencies.
I can only claw at the silence.

Dolmens of rain collapse
in the kitchen. Black coral rises up
out of the fridge, out of the cabinetry,
out of the thickening lung-mass.

I am ever that blue baby,
leasing breath from a sterile hand,
my hair silvered over like a frost -
my tattoos gathered like a frightened flock.

Sea-changes are coming.
My last thoughts today, that coruscate
from the obelisk of my spine, are of the woman
who slurred my atoms so carelessly.
My heart is tabletop -
the rest of me is the filled-in border
of jigsaw pieces, hanging teeth
around a maw; the middle is missing.

I am also the beheading bluejay
slicing the tendons of greenery
that waver in the rain lens
imprinting on glass and shadow.

I wait on street corners
for specks of truth, beauty;
"That is all ye know on earth,
and all ye need to know" and all that.

But I have a quicksand heart -
step and drown.
Wreathes of blood shiver inside
in murderous curtains.

I vanish in front of you:
This world has no middle in it,
& what little remains is draining out,
teeth strewn in a garden.
May 31 · 83
Strange Geometries
Evan Stephens May 31
I have stopped leaving this room
except for exigencies. Why bother?

Deadened clouds skate on the face
of the black rectangle every night

no matter what moves I make,
& somewhere up and out there

is a numb and strangely ovular moon.
It's all very far from me;

I wash my hands of all of it.
I watch the strange geometries

of strangers sitting tipsily
along the hypotenuse of Columbia Street,

laughing and singing happy birthday to Joan.
Joan is wearing yellow. While they all sing,

she gazes into the lush sinew of the trees.
A thousand years ago...

this street was just a brackish pool.
A thousand years from now,

serpents will bathe on the brick wreck.
But tonight... Joan and her circle

sag and slink into lavender flatness.
Soon they are specks, and then nothing at all.
May 24 · 57
Evan Stephens May 24
To Meg Eden, after reading her book

Ugetsu - a shortening of u-sei-getsu, "A moon obscured by rainclouds"

There are towers of water standing
in the distance. They're waiting for us
to complete our denouement
before the fat, snapping rain drums
against the pebbled elephant skin
of street sick, slick with black petals.

Rain clouds obscure the moon,
headless, heedless, puffed out,
bruising wildly overhead
even as the veil comes loose.

We had this miraculous day,
as if nothing had changed.
You were still exactly yourself.
I missed your voice more than I knew.
Your keen eye, the same clever lens,
it held it all in, the same as before.

Your lovely, quiet soul...
I hardly know what to say;
I cried until my face ached
after you walked into the hotel.
May 14 · 59
Poe Pastiche for N---
Evan Stephens May 14
A cloud is grimly passing,
                  passing grimly
o'er this raven cawing glibly,
mocking us with twilit eye.

In this hellish ev'ning hour
you clean the garage, clean and scour,
finding tomes both low and high.

But now you leave to do a chore,
forego the raven at your door,
who blithely chants his "nevermore,"
his soft ironic "less is more,"

the darkling chant in falling dusk.
The ice around the heart's not thawing
shadows form claw, fang, and tusk
from the raven's stony cawing,

and in the late and lonely hour,
lonely, late, and dimly dour,
a chill that passes cold and sour,
tells of ebon raven waiting,
a raven perched and blankly weighting

my soul against a feather,
now, and then forevermore:
a rainy hour's graven weather,
this black bird with his dread languor
whispers ceaseless: "nevermore."
May 10 · 70
Evan Stephens May 10
"Deformed, unfinish'd, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up"
-Richard III, Shakespeare

The sky is a bland face of gray linen,
a faded shroud-scrap, a broken nail
of moon lost in the bedsheets.

My friends live in the black skin
of the phone. They are lost gloss.
Golden windows swell and crack

with light in the early May eve.
Lager, sherry, scotch: dogs sniff
the dead things in the street.

I am a tenth of a soul. Unfinished
in this breathing scar, this scorn,
scarce half made. I am a tenth,

or less. I am sunken, buried
in the broad ash water.
My brown eye is custard.

I sink into my chair. What happened?
The night has slipped away.
The moon is lost in the sheets.
Apr 28 · 59
Evan Stephens Apr 28
There is a cloud over Yorkshire...
it brings burst speech in the evening.

The grass is bending in the rain;
a fine fog slips goodbye like window fingers,

leaving behind a shining extract.
We're on the viscous edge of night,

straying into dim, broken hellos
that dissolve us like a companionable acid.

We cook our meals quietly tonight
in black aprons of lonely air.

The silver of the blade is dwindling.
Stars blink like vacancy signs.
Apr 18 · 80
A Year Later
Evan Stephens Apr 18
Green wine in the afternoon...
I am flaking thru another Saturday:

a year ago I found you after years
in the milestone courtyard,

you bought me coffee and we compared notes
on the carousel of inadequate lovers

who had betrayed us and vanished,
but never quite vanished enough.

One night, late, I came by
& admired your house.

Then the waters slowly closed in
over me and my mouth crept away.

Now, you cut thru the ether
to recover the string of thought

that passed between us.
Thank you for that -

you have been a spray of stars.
I am the empty space in between.
Apr 11 · 151
Verse for J-
Evan Stephens Apr 11
You are the passing shadow in the lavender,
the new wet leaf on the budded branch.

You sweep the year away again,
the morning ploughed blue to yellow.

Low tide grips and goes,
a seethe of chilled salt and muddy mist.

What remains is a breeze:
your cotton sleeve sun-speckled.

I send you this verse
as a mourning dove lifts

its black penny eye
under strings of evening,

& sings a falling song
cheek to cheek with the glass.
My heart is muffled,
buried as if in sea mud
alongside thorned shells
nestled in the slick.

Purple gore rings it
in ribs like tented fingers
as it sits and waits
for nothing in particular.

By drunken prophesies,
libels and dreams,
it makes its needs known.
Like small birds on the wing

spreading wind-wetted seeds
into the endorsing green,
I half-hope that something grows
from this busily clouded chance-chain.

Maybe a small gesture,
made half-way, made in jest maybe,
might root in the red of the soul,
unmuffle the muscle's knell -

but it all passes by -
no one is waving this way.
The floor is an emptying pattern;
the rain is coming, the rain is coming.
Mar 24 · 61
The Bartender II
Evan Stephens Mar 24
I watch your legs -
not the denim or flesh,
but the long thigh bones

as they glide above the chevrons,
flourishes above the tile,
cursive scrawls in the wet air.

Strange thought, I know.
I cannot account for it.
My sister sends you regards

from New Jersey's Starland.
You smile with sweet tolerance.
Mezcal courses through my face.

Happy hour is ending,
& with it, my tenure in your kingdom.
I am cast adrift once again.

The moon is full tonight;
gravid, a white bursting.
It sings into the palms of my hands.

O bartender, bartender,
with your good posture:
who am I? Who am I?
Mar 18 · 328
The Bartender
Evan Stephens Mar 18
Glossy-budded hair,
unnameably Portuguese,
your hand-picked star anise
floats in my pear sangria.

You are of the moment.
You are a smile and a nose ring.
You seem curious about me,
but you can't be.

Thank you for the swift nothings
of little talk that helped me along
on a Friday afternoon.
You couldn't know it,

but such small items
as bar talk have become, for me,
strange freedoms that bubble up
& sometimes displace the sorrow

that encases me perpetually
on these long spring days.
Your stance between the beer taps,
by the good scotch and gin...

it brings a faint gladness
to an ulcerated gray
that sweeps back westward
across the parapets of new night.
Mar 17 · 105
Free Hands
Evan Stephens Mar 17
"Before our lives divide for ever,
While time is with us and hands are free.“
-Algernon Charles Swinburne

There is a strangeness in the air today.
New buds came out on the branch,
green and purple and yellow,
like bruises on old arms.

The sun is gnarled, wrinkled,
folded between ****** clouds
like stringy dough in the knuckles.
The sun doesn't care, it doesn't care

if I'm alive or dead.
It sits in its eight minute perch
in perpetual mockery
of my careful observations.

Someday my dead ash will mock
the fat red belt-bloat of the sun ,
expanded to eat the first couple planets,
maybe even ours.

But no one cares.
If there was ever a lazy, wanton god
who made all this waste,
he or she retreated long ago

to watch these jests from afar.
If there was ever a devil who scourged
the hells with a red hand,
he or she retreated long ago.

Now there are just free hands,
roaming in the salted night
of the inner city boundary.
Free hands can touch what they want.

We are all frozen in time
by our unregenerate desires.
We are free-handed, starry-haired.
We are just lines, wavering.
Mar 8 · 109
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day
-Lord Byron, "Darkness"

Eater of broken meats
touching the night skin:
an ebb and flow of rain
scolds the window.

My skin bursts with olive slivers
with no hand to calm it in the morning.
Scalpel water from the white basin
glistens on a lip tatter.

The moon is failing.
Crude isolate breath
hums above the bud-elm.
Young drunks are wailing

as they hug one another,
twinned by the street flicker.
I succumb to sleep's disease
with your book still in my hand.
Mar 2 · 86
A Birthday Gift
"For where thou fliest I shall not follow,
Till life forget and death remember,
Till thou remember and I forget"
-Algernon Charles Swinburne.

The day is leaking out in the east,
from a spoiled, dripping lump of sun
that carves its way through calving cloud
en route to the pillow of your eye,

the eye that will never read this.
It's your birthday under cold green rain
in the almost-city, and my grief
stalks the quays, searching for a gift,

a gift that will never be given.
After all, "change is sovereign of the strand" -
the sea that burns blue and white,
inflicted with salt-ghosts that ring the sand,

the sand where I stood in a heart-sleep,
my name eroded by the spaces between stars,
with a cleaver stuck in my mind.
"Behold what quiet settles on the world" -

the world that has slipped away in the dark.
I send you a long sweetness, wrapped
in evening. I send you a poppy's red gown.
I send you whatever I have become tonight.
Feb 21 · 72
"Je Vis Assis"
Evan Stephens Feb 21
"Je vis assis, tel qu'un ange  aux mains d'un barbier" -Rimbaud
"I spend my life sitting, like an angel in the hands of a barber"

Here it is, another day.
This one is called Monday.

The sour yellow-white wax
smears bright as feathery snow

towards the westing.
"I spend my life sitting,

like an angel in the hands of a barber."
Clouds are old sailcloth,

gray hunches traded away
at voyage's end in exchange

for a handful of sallow moon.
I am missing a lot of necessary things.

I fill the gaps as I can, but, well...
I let my beard grow out, so that I look

as unwholesome as I feel.
Small birds chirp on branches

bare as flayed phalanges.
If love is man unfinished,

then so is death.
Brown hierarchies ride along

in the early holiday afternoon,
while brick squats off the road.

Here it is, another day.
This one is called Monday.
Feb 12 · 227
Alphaville '65
Evan Stephens Feb 12
The heart is a grave,
logic is buried there.

City of stones and gamblers,
trees leafed with playing cards,

old men skimming coins
from the fountain floor.

Here in Alphaville,
romance is the gun -

pull the hat down low,
rub your lips with your thumb,

drive in the neon-beaded night
to the swimming pool gallows

where you broadcast a red truth
before the wet knives come flashing.

The heart is a grave,
logic is buried there.
Feb 10 · 60
Chemical Mistakes
Evan Stephens Feb 10
A woman on the walk
chews on a white gap
that hovers in the tree.

A fleet of dead clouds,
dull gummy bumps,
reflect our hunched signals.

Even the road is false,
a mouth of crushed oil husks
that eats our fried blood.

This all collects into an afternoon
of chemical mistakes.
Thoughts that spongily refold.

We're reading with flashlights
under a shared blanket of grief,
eyes shining; incandescent wax.
Oh, little sweet one -
you found me early, and held on tight.

Hundreds of photos prove in chorus
the joy you took in living.

You would climb to my shoulder,
like a honey-brooch, and perch -

gazing green-eyed out the long pane
at the small traffic below, the playthings

of your curious thought. I cannot bear
to give away your beige tree

so frayed and leafed with hair.
I cannot bear to gaze at the rug

where you delighted in long quiet hours
of happy sleep, dreaming of running,

legs twitching. Your love of tuna,
& endless inquiries into the open freezer door

charmed me anew each morning. Your purr
gathered in little hums and circles in my hands.

We both hated our many moves,
but you always found the best parts

of our new homes so quickly -
the bat-squeaks on the school roof,

or the mourning doves beyond the screen.
I miss the scrape scrape scrape of your foot

in the litter. I miss the little splashes
you made in the water bowl.

I miss you very much, little one;
you were the best part of me.
Jan 28 · 93
Primo Sonno
Evan Stephens Jan 28
Primo Sonno, the traditional First Sleep that was common before the Industrial Revolution, it occurred between nightfall and midnight after which the sleeper arose to interpret dreams, pray, write...

The cherry liquor puts me down
around the time the snowfall arrives,
when the blackish hem of night
is snugged over the last lacy orange light.

I have jamais vu - I see the familiar,
& feel nothing, an iron-browed stranger
gazing out at the dim flake-fall,
the urban hush that sweeps away the scrawl.

At midnight I wake to an insistent horn
deep in the street pockets. I dreamt
of people with guns following me,
gluey-eyed, marching quay to quay.

In the dark, I almost remember her.
In the dark, my stomach is filled with acid.
Shadows hiss in the bleary mirror,
a cold breeze scrapes a little nearer.
Jan 20 · 64
La Commedia è Finita
Evan Stephens Jan 20
"The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token."
-Edgar Allan Poe, Sprits of the Dead

I just saw Nights of Cabiria,
     and cried away an afternoon -
I know the hesitant smile
     that spreads across her wet cheek
when the dancers surround her
     in the finishing wood,
her naive heart annihilated,
     but life pressing on, regardless.

The comedy is over -
     my rain days are done.
I am stuck in the black river, far from everyone
     whose voice I want to hear,
shouting into the snowy wind,
     voice swallowed by a smoking mirror.
I cook risotto on the stove,
     imagine my head in the oven, O sweet gas.

There is a shadow on the hill.
     Green wet wheels churn restlessly in Dublin,
a place I cannot shed - I am a snake
     caught in the molting, carrying
the dead old self like a cloak
     along the shoulder,
pinned by memories of magpies,
     & lip-mists of Gauloises.

The winter has lost my cigarette soul;
     a sad god has emerged from the soil
like orchid roots exploring the air,
     tasting the poisonous world.
I pour my gasoline *** and drink deeply.
     I shoot at my shadow
with yesterday's bullets.
     The empire is flooded and drowned.
Jan 17 · 115
Evan Stephens Jan 17
“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness in the proportion.” -Edgar Allan Poe

We're all sick animals, tied together
on this clouded ball. Wet snow erupts
on a Sunday night, a gray flake navy,
mobiles above a black crib -

snow loosens into shaking sleet.
There is no one here - not even me.
The night is pink and orange,
under an anesthetic dome.

Don't we deserve more, better?
The streets are filled with taillights,
red rivers of light, salted, frothing,
as the freezing drips spray the pane.

Maybe we don't. Look out there,
at the wet world. We're just seeds
that open a root to the flood, swept
away into the teeth of the past.
We look for solutions to this problem...
in the cloud rush, in the oven gas.

I found a medicine that I drink,
it clears the night wreathes away.

Duran Duran's "The Chauffeur" plays
while the rain stomps in the black road.

That was us.... we were then,
among the cobbles and tombs,

hand in hand, absinthe and sugar
searing the air. We were; we were.

You held my thigh at night,
a bone against the insomnia.

The dark didn't come until later;
it had such a broad wing.

The hours grew late. The purple vine
clawed upward. The walls crawled with taste...

I lost my hold on things. Do you remember
how we watched the old Dean Martin

movie on TV in Rome? I drank beer
from a can while you laughed.

You laughed - it was the sweet middle
that sustained the world.

Now... now... the hour is long in the tooth.
My chest is a grave. There is nothing after this.

No, nothing - I'm sorry.
Dig this earth for no purpose, friend...

My ash collects around the fingertips,
waiting for the grand canal.
Jan 6 · 75
Salt Night
Most of the snow has melted now,
gray dough-banks ****** on curbs
under a wind-lacquered gloss.

The Thai salt sits in me, hours after,
stirs thru blue yarn veins,
sharp in the stomach's wax-pit.

Night declines when lamps snap on:
dead, reclusive salmon eyes that broadcast
onto the cold screens dotting the walk.

I haven't seen anyone for so many days -
my tongue is still as a lake skin.
Lost hearts voyage in whitened dunes

of all my yesterdays. The winter pattern
is so quiet. I am a crease in the fabric,
a black ache in the ruined prism.
Dec 2021 · 65
Whisky Grammar
Evan Stephens Dec 2021
"And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." -John 1:5

I find whisky grammar in the cold sluices,
in the curve of the thickened glass-ash.

The bourbon cask gave its woody soul
to the barley spirit, to the amber shadow.

The New Year comes but I reject it;
the sun-ball drifts yellowing like an old page,

the moon rises like a bleached skull.
Ireland came and went, full of green iron secrets.

My life was full, but now it is empty.
I live in a high room full of guitars,

full of alcohol, full of deathly ulcers,
full of Plath and her sweet ether.

The air is seared. The water boils.
The witch shakes her hazel wand,

& demons sigh in resignation - why bother?
Humans move the darkness in little pieces.

Somewhere in Sicily, in Silesia, in Kent,
my blood is moving without me. My blood -

it's loving another. It's never had a headache.
It actually lives a full life, somewhere else,

that good red life. But not here: Here,
I drink in the old cemetery, with the blurry pebbles.
Dec 2021 · 65
New Year's, 2021-2022
Evan Stephens Dec 2021
Bruisy clouds slouch across a grayed glower
on a brisk, anesthetized Tuesday.

All these people, coming and going on the walk,
ignoring the sobs of the frayed man who digs

squelched cigarette butts out of the mulch
packing the dead-headed elm at the bus stop.

I cook a small lunch that threads the studio
with citrus fingers, above the coal painting

that dries flat on the Sicilian game table,
but my mind is elsewhere. I am thousands

of miles from this bricked-in niche where scotch
and stout stand sentinel on the granite bar:

I am walking step by step through Lansdowne,
past the silent salt-nose of each slate-slanted house,

on my way to the sand where the power plant
reaches upward with muscled black arms

so that even the froth withdraws into a curtain
of coming rain... strange, always a gray rain,

that comes so quickly. It heavies the sweater
of the yellowed dog-walker, steadies the rasp

of the cigarette digger, peppers the mirror
that spreads its silver shell across the asphalt.

This littling rain calls me back from Sandymount
and its endless bench. The black paint is dry now,

& the old year has died, flung to the floor like a rag
you cough into when you breathe the wrong way.
Dec 2021 · 91
You Were a Camera
Evan Stephens Dec 2021
A year ago today,
I walked the dark canal bank,
water chopping the long stone
as we went to the grocery
& bought wine and meat.

We cooked, fed each other,
as the wind came down
to shake the branch.
My mouth was full of love.
My hands played cat's cradle with fire.

Oh, love: you were a camera,
shutter snapping my best days.
I posed against Wilde's grave,
when the magpie played
with your blue boot.

You caught me against the red trees,
you caught me in the flat green.
You caught me among the rare books
scented with old glue, you caught me
with a Guinness in my hand.

It happened a year ago,
but it could have been this morning.
It could have been twenty year ago.
My life has not moved on, at all.
I see other women and feel nothing.

My Irish and Turkish girl:
What did you do to me?
The swans in the canal glanced my way,
the distillery cooked their malt and grain,
& my life froze forever in a high, foreign place.
Dec 2021 · 102
One Year Out
Evan Stephens Dec 2021
A year ago I stepped into the green coffin.  
The Grand Canal was so sweet beside my feet,
by the one-winged bridge. Then the ocean
receded, a long sand-salt, beckoning.

Now, I am in the long black river city.
The leaves fall to their little deaths
on the illuminated sidewalk after five.
The twilight bull charges in on deadened fog.

The Wharf's anesthesia blanks out
while new yuppies roast smores in fake fire.
A blue tree shines from the reflection.
Cars park in yellow spots, music dies away.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day
that I flew to the emerald. Now I just air fry
sweet potatoes, listening to old Bowie,
shedding blood into the dead rug.

I miss my green coffin. I laid there so still,
so quiet. I heard the birds and the drunks
in the early morning, crying out; I miss them.
I took the train back from Phoenix Park,

where the cross recited a towering prayer above me.
I walked among the O'Connell shoppers,
the Georgian families, the sweet swans...
I have become nothing at all. Nothing, at all.
Dec 2021 · 80
Evan Stephens Dec 2021
Oh, now I feel my topmost greatness lies in my topmost grief. -Ahab, Moby ****, Hermann Melville.

The winter's body shakes in little slops
that beat against the window, sloping
upward out of the dead-leaf carousel
into the black sheet-fold of cares.

I shaped my life around someone who is gone.
Therefore I have no shape - I am a vapor,
a bolting-breeze, a formless sherd of glass
freed from the vandalized car window.

Every breath is glassy, an anesthetic
that numbs me to the next one.
Every beer and scotch liberated from the cabinet
helps me drift toward a wet oblivion...

What now? What now?
I don't struggle with dollars or dolls,
preferring instead the silence of the studio,
the slow march of ink across the face of it;

it snowed this morning.
My heart gave way. I opened the window
& let the frost enter the bed:
the scent of bitter coffee floods the air.
Nov 2021 · 50
"Those Little Slices"
Evan Stephens Nov 2021
"Sleep: those little slices of death, how I loathe them" -Poe

In my dreams I am always dying -
a Sicilian orange rolls down the walk,
the yellow branch-hand lets go,
& the starlings have all flown.

Why bother? My childhood sweethearts
are all miserable. Their children
have their own children,
terminal sin after terminal sin.

Ambulances go red as they float
slowly down the street. The dream ends
in a strange puff of vapor. Clouds die.
**** bodies move, then stop moving.

Let's face it: little slices of death
bring dark oils to the cheeks
of the depressed canvas. A skull in black
stares at the keys. It's over. Over.
Nov 2021 · 50
Storm Glass
Evan Stephens Nov 2021
I'm just sitting here,
thoughts sieving through the pane
in little tarry slices, sluicing slurs
or slurries against a night
of Georgian house-faces crowding
their brick-point cheeks
eastward towards a flat disc
of frost, cut with black wings.

The storm glass has birthed
a wicked ammonia flake
from the quartzy ethanol thigh,
which I guess means rain
will break in soon to blotch
& pock the walk, breeding
petrichor into the wine-dark
water-heart of sinking air.

I make rough gestures
towards civility and society,
keep the words floating above
the sutured margins of the wound;
wouldn't want to alarm anybody.
There is no rescuing sleep tonight,
only this scrying glass clotting up
with starburst funeral wreathes.
Evan Stephens Oct 2021
Deoch Bhleth - the fourth drink of the morning, taken while the morning oats are being ground

The heart is drowned in dream
as the body motions towards coffee,
whisky, water, pills.

November slouches in slowly,
all sharp shoulders
& muscular knees.

The black circle turns and screams,
the beacon spits morning news,
an island of misery emerges from the salt-froth.

The wet streets are slicked to a shine;
I've gained weight. The day moon
is pregnant with blue.

Blood is thin and slippery in the vein.
The razor leaves fine lines all across my face.
My arm is singing. Psalms drop from the sleek

yellow womb of the ****** sun.
Alcohol climbs within me: I fall back on the bed,
thinking of her again. Where is she?

Is she staring out at the magpies
that gather on the wet lunch-branch?
Is she by the Liffey, watching the slate glint?

I am trapped in this plaster tomb,
my head a bridge between past and present;
somewhere a chain is being broken.
Evan Stephens Oct 2021
Deoch Chas-ruisgte - the third drink of the day, taken while still barefoot

Face to face with soap-fingered morning,
an abyss bounded by vapor trails,
an unblinking eye stares back from the glass.

Once, I woke with a lover in this bed,
her hands braced against my back,
as if keeping me from falling.

Now the daylight is my chilly crutch,
a mocking rain-ring sliding over
the madhouse orange of the turning trees.

When I was a child, I was left to my own devices;
you'd think solitude wouldn't poison me this way -
yet even the afternoon breeze shaves me down.

The little cat and the sunbeam
do their daily pas de deux
while I think about the blood-flower

that emerged from an angel's mouth.
A year of snow-tides, of shipwrecks...
Oh, god...
Evan Stephens Oct 2021
Froichd-uilinn - the second drink of the day, taken while propped up on your elbow

I sink my bones, crooked in mattress,
lower the liquor to lip as calving sun
leaks through the east-faced pane.

I think back to La Fontaine Sully
in La Marais, on the way back
from the graveyard...

But to what profit?
My memory slices me open,
revealing a slow web of star-gutted stairs.

"Immer augen" my grandmother says,
or said, or will say. The street slouches
with honey-feet, red wine drips into the river.

Fashionable diners spread themselves
across the sidewalk. Laughter launches
like stones into this tower window.

Old thoughts are a slaughter.
A marriage didn't happen.
Bright lights against the meat-black

of night, the shroud-cloth
over my own face, lips wet
& shining with liquor.
Evan Stephens Oct 2021
Sgailc-nide - the first morning drink, taken while still laying flat on your back

A caustic belt of autumn sun
flings itself through the glass,
yolk wasted across the blood-rug.

Last night's final slug
of scotch sits waiting
on the blackcloth nightstand.

I gather it into my fist,
take a look at the blue syrup
of morning light...

I will tell you all
that the first morning shot
glows like a new blind heart.

This future is mad with silence,
while the past asserts itself
in lost faces, so many lost faces.

I have a bruise on my face
that I can't recall getting.
I don't remember the evenings,

although last night I cut my hair
with a rattling metal hand
that sharped at the skull.

Each morning is a scrape.
I don't recognize this lonely man
in the acid sluice of mirror.
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