SIMON PERCHIK'S recent books include The Gandolph Poems (White Pine Press) and Touching the Headstone (Stride). His poems have appeared in publications including The Partisan Review, Colorado Review, Manoa, Massachusetts Review and Chelsea. He lives in New York.


A click and its likeness
can't change, curled
the way rain yellows
though you hold on
almost make out the grin
that could be yours

- it's been years, minutes
and even with your arms apart
you have forgotten the smell
the fleece-lined gloves
filled with dry leaves
half paper, half iron
half pinned to this snapshot
still bleeding from a thumbtack
and your shoulders

- you don't recognize the hand
left holding up the sky
to look for the other
bringing it a morning
ripped from wings and mountainside
that can't close or open
or dry :the rust
still waving, gutting the cheeks
whatever day it was.


You spoonfeed the dead
half deaf, half lame, half
with rocks to defend yourself

though you wipe her lips
on the one dark lapel
cut adrift, leaning against

the other the way each mourner
will rest and for a while
try to remember her name

guess at it stone by stone
with the water circling overhead
till her mouth opens wide

- you throw coals into her throat
and from the snipped lapel
stuffed with sea-winter, cliffs

spoon by spoon the secret pact
where the last to survive
keeps something on foot still singing

something she can use - a comb
a bracelet, an old love song
louder! shoes, a small suitcase.


Embedded and this statue
still tightening its grip
tries to revive the horse
expects its crumbling reins
to smell from leather
and crowding - you squint

the way the general
looks for a small thing
encased in a season
exactly where he left it

waits in the rain
for your black umbrella to open
make room for you
and under the darkness
hold the Earth steady

while his horse works its way
closer to this rain still wet
from the climbing turn
into ice and longing, lost

- its front hooves mid-air
shaking the stone loose
for its likeness even in moonlight
almost breathing, already
side by side that could go on
if it had to.


From that first wave, ruined
wobbling on its back half weeds
half bottomsong, tormented the way clouds

still fill with seawater then veer
into twilight - it took the darkness
though you bend best you can

sifting the damp sand
as if you forgot something
- in the dark it's hard to keep your hands

from running aground, stranded
palms up, one to test for rain
the other for picking up small stones

already soft, almost empty
and between your lips
overtaking the dry endless cry

on its climb toward kisses and pieces
- one hand kept empty to cradle your mouth
the other drifting into lullaby.


You fold one hand as if the wall
left without you, is crumbling
and this love note
beginning to yellow the way flowers
lead back the dead, the lips, a mouth

- between these bricks and morning
one hand reaches down
loosening another stone all night carried
from the skyline and back

as if it were used to moonlight, has trapped
a summer evening, a heaviness, the moss
almost familiar, the breasts, the cold.


Once into its slow climbing turn
you lick the thermometer bare
see your reflection half sunlight

half leaning over - to drain
you roll on your side while the nurse
listens with her soft hand

for clouds, sifts your cheek for its shade
and you make your descent
mouth open from rust and glass

- you bite your tongue so the canopy
stays red from the stench, stunned
by the flash and thunder though the nurse

won't hear the raindrops
breaking open on your forehead, the sweat
that won't let you cool or land.


You use this patch as if one eye
rants in the dark, could hear
and over some moonlit stream
stares at that place in the story
where the ogre, once upon a time
was a child younger than you
though one page will always turn back
by itself, cackling, wrinkled
useless - a little darkness helps

pulled close so you can find the thud
every cover makes when a book
shuts down and the sea
takes water from everywhere
- for a split second
you see half the monster
and when it rains, the other.