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 Apr 2023 ju
Evan Stephens
Sitting with you in the kitchen
Talking of anything
Drinking tea
I love you

Oh I wish you body here
With or without the bearded poem

-Elise Nada Cowen, "Sitting"

Face the firing squad, Evan -
the dowsing rod pierced memorial waters
coiling in the soft morning triangles.

Morning coffee builds browning steam
as I recall the feeling of lips, hungry lips -
ladies of death and water.

The mind is the borderland.
Where does mind go after the body
returns to the ash salt cycle?

Oh, hell - who cares anyway?
Billions of years from now, the sun eats us,
the sun dies and in dying

it eats its children, like the titans did.
There won't be new stars.
Whatever lump of death I become,

will be scattered into the universal zero
way, way before that. But ... my mind?
Does it just shut down, a key turn,

going cold? A message, read once?
A name known to a few, then unknown to all.
I no longer even desire one person like I did -

I just want to connect a few times
before the lazy azure turns black.
Some company in the evenings.  

I know you understand - remember
when someone slowly touched
the inside of your wrist?

"Let me out now please –
Please let me in"
 Mar 2023 ju
Evan Stephens
The neon vests are huddled
against the white sleek of the van,
crowing cigarette gossips
as they warm up the machine.

The asphalt is plowed away,
churned and melted, black butter
of the earth, pecked to hell
by rapid, merciless steel beaks.

The foreman's memento mori:
tobacco's body returns itself to ash,
a smoked soul rises toward my window,
gray crown cooling and fading.

They strip the street.
Denuded, a dirt stripe stretches
into a water cradle.
They pour tar into a slick shape,

it gleams thousandfold,
accusing insect oil eyes.
Paths can be taken away, remade:
crooked roads straightened.

Two years of grief distilled
in gulped gallons: undone,
undrunk, sweated out
on the cork yoga mat.

New things are placed
beneath the surface,
filling the cavities.
New skin is pressed.

The orange vests disperse
into the rings of evening.
I sit and wait in the new dark:
someone is coming for me, and soon.
 Feb 2023 ju
Evan Stephens
Flowers that blossom at night:
those who open in the dark,
those who open to the dark.

I sit in my ***-bottomed boat,
thinking about the turns
& branches of my life.

No: my boat is dry-docked.
Let's be honest:
it's just a lonely bed, no oars.

But I am open, at last:
I am ready for someone
to come and turn their key

in this reddened lock.
Behind this door are rewards.
Behind this door I am waiting.

But let's be still more honest:
no one is racing down the hall
with a key in hand to try their luck.

I am a night-blooming cereus:
open in the dark, scented,
waiting for something in the black

to land and spread pollen.
I will breathe it - I will inhale
the sweetness, the gesture...
 Jan 2023 ju
Evan Stephens
The statues are eyeless in Iveagh,
ruins under leafed eaves,

effaced, pitted, blotted,
benighted green and wet:

they have heard far more love
than mine and hers, witnessed

others filled with beer, wine,
& whiskey. Forbidden fruit

rots on the branch. Magpies gather
by blue knees, curious and hopeful.

Crimes of the heart were committed
on that night. The sound of the river

sinewed through the cracked window.
The past was father of the present,

the sheets were stained sails.
Coffee was brewing in the evening,

corks rolled into corners,
whiskey emptied the memory.

Now it's years, years later:
I just walked on water,

the river would not collapse beneath me.
A friend sent me neon letters,

rain is due tomorrow,
and the kittens are restless.

I open a bottle. My lovely neighbor
is building a mirror before dinner,

she borrows a screwdriver.
I am guilty of everything you said.

I am guilty: but there is no jury
who would ever convict.
 Jan 2023 ju
Evan Stephens
New Year's Eve dark at 4:30,
a dilation like a pleasured eye:
stray clouds pull themselves
across the clarity

& stars smudge unreasonably
across taffy-thin years of light,
long inviting blears.
I am peeling away from myself,

half-drunk on the absence of grief,
half-drunk on my lovely neighbor's wine:
it's funny how little moments
can pull together the murmuration

into a pattern you can hold:
I feel possibilities, sour morsels
of old dreams going loose
into the frozen nacre of street,

into the cubic alleyways,
rain smiles light as *****.
But moments don't hold,
something turns off -

the clouds are burning alive
in a songbird's oubliette.
The bastille falls
all the prisoners escape.
 Dec 2022 ju
Evan Stephens
 Dec 2022 ju
Evan Stephens
We were just telephones
full of young ***,
sharp breath and sticky,
talking into sleep...

I'd dial into your machine,
it was your mom singing
"Splish Splash" by Bobby Darin,
you were so embarrassed

(with that button nose
you hated so much),
but it was always OK, Kelly.
We met just the once, at Alan's party,

for his basement Exorcist
& you clutched my hand in the dark.
When you're 15, that kind of thing
takes on certain meanings.

When you broke us up
I sobbed in my bedroom,
pleading to Richard Pryor
who I had pasted to the ceiling.

I lost track of you
until you married my blond
summer steakhouse boss:
everyone said you weren't happy.

Now you are a minus sign,
a gauze-ghost, an atom-gap,
a redheaded dull-bladed heartache
who I thought I loved, once

(in my teenage way, I did).
I buttoned my shirt wrong
while remembering you,
I tasted you in a glass of rye.

There is a freeze coming.
Wear a scarf, a good jacket:
the rain is coffin lacquer gloss
as it shines and skitters into ice.
 Nov 2022 ju
Joel M Frye
the amount of light
expressed equals how much of
our dark we explore
Grazie, Denah.
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