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First we watched the fires dance
lapping at the old wood like
a parched dog's tongue to water

Second we bought vegetables from
a man and ate them without washing
or burning with fire

Next I can't remember but it was
so very long and sad and the things
that make people cry
made us cry

Without a compass I can't move
a new direction even if the wind
rips at my back and thrusts me
forward

I am the shadow of tree limbs
on bright mornings

Dark and soft and untouchable
don’t numb that brain silly boy

put it to good use



cleave in half

the line parsing

chest from

chin hair

        you’re a man when

        you say you are

save the streaks of palm-filth

dug-under nails broken

buried under dirtweight



what do you know of slippage

        —something  



****** as inch-thick glass

run through a filter

                        tossed aloft

                into

        the ceiling

fan  



I’m left for nothing of my efforts

it's dirt under the fingernail

        you can taste it

it's dirt


        taste it
dirt taste short attitude front survive life ride streaky
I don't know the rules. If I go looking
for grace and find it, what will grace

be but penance for my past, a silver
sinew-thread wrapping 'round old
            wrongs, gray hair for the
                        fickle.

I've naught but want for sweet release
from this history. The bombs ignored,
            repeating in gramophone static
                        dripping stiff

as wet bamboo. I remember someone
once sang here, once strung together

chords so sweet they rang like peace-
bells beneath cloudless sky. They've
            rang the bell upon my jaw and
                        done no wrong.

It's not so much unlike one's curiously
cold reception at a funeral. The cold
            and rain ****** at the skin
                        during graveside hymnal.

As long as the earth continues
its stony breathing I will breathe.

That which I cannot help but do.
Stuck between boulders, I sing.

When it stops, I will shatter back
into gravity. Into quartz.
"Rimrock" is a poem from Kaveh Akbar's 2017 collection "Calling a Wolf a Wolf." Akbar's lines are in standard type; my lines are in italics.
The history—you and me—
it's carved in sandstone
               
                   I've taken to asking
                            Scheherazade myself


As though capital-T time cones
into a chisel of wind with which
to strike its flattest face

                  There was a time I thought
                            you had taken to the idea
                   of leaving me and there
                            is naught to blame for
                   that but myself


There is little evidence to believe
in history on loop until you've again
been consumed by blindness and
fear and utterly sick of yourself

                  The one person you're with
                             every waking second


Just thinking can—at ***** times—
be an act of self-negation

                   *You told me you loved me and
                             I felt it in your breath
It's my last hope.
The sun in its afternoon swirl. It's up there. Far,
                 far and I still feel that
There's always hope.
It's fresh fruit meeting the tongue. It's playing
                 King of the Mountain.
It's the budding smell of spring flora.
It grows on trees.*
                 We pluck it, make it purchasable.
"Timepiece" is a poem from Jana Prikryl's 2016 collection "The After Party."
When one is forced to stop drinking, the first thing felt is shame. It is recognition that coerced abstinence was inevitable. The court told me No alcohol and I said Okay. An assessor of the state told me If you picture life past 30, you stop now: he might have added For the longevity of both you and your relationship(s), but it might be his own history stopped him. The morning I crashed my car was not cold like today. Suburbs are generally quiet at four-thirty; runaways choke-chain drooping eyes to a bedpost for a few more fickle hours, hoping (praying) body keeps pace with hunger. I was hungry, and we went to get food. My brow beats ripples into the airbag. In county my sheltered white life was a blanket doused in gasoline. The sheltered white mind may scream but the sheltered white body cowers under concrete. In class I was assured Alcoholism runs in the family. The gene plagues Hendrix men as a curse of choice. It's a gun in a knife case. Six months sober; it still itches. I'm still hungry. The state told me I was Lucky [I] didn't **** someone. I was selfish. I was selfish because I thought they meant me.
This poem is inspired by Mary Hickman's second book, "Rayfish."
I don't have anything to do with this

          imperfect receptacle,
light of pre-dawn-breaker-
bringer of boredom.

                    There are systemic means of
                    hurting oneself, the constant

ripping and stitching of that cherry-
          covered cloth

                    it's like drowning in
                    maple syrup, sticky and

sweet. I've been told that dropping
drink was the hardest thing I've

                    never done.


          I found these things,
these iron pores dripping
iron sweat, remarkably

                    easy to ignore.
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