*
Though over the doorway
an old horseshoe clinks
empties inside a single nail

keeping it warm —a small room
a stove, the iron pot
covered with a ceiling

used to a door
that opens and closes
for no reason at all

collects what's around
left out for good luck
then winter

—even in the cold
you sleep on this kitchen floor
with its invisible nails

and creaking side to side
the way the sun is struck
one morning to the next

then back after the burial
—a clear advantage
—you don't give the sun a chance

let it burn as the faint scent
from oak flooring
—you have to make it work.

*
These petals taking command, the flower
pinned down and the work stops
–your breath dragged back

where it's safe and in your lungs
hides the way each sky is named
after the word for stone

for this small grave each Spring
the dirt adds to till suddenly
you are full height, your lips

defending you against the cold
waiting it out in your mouth
–they too want you to talk

to call them by name
say what they sound like
turning away, alone, alone and alone.

*
Both hands and this ink
the way the dead are sheltered
–you fill the pen

with slowly behind
loosen those tiny stones
you still drink from :you write

as if this shovel
had carried away the Earth
into moonlight where mourners

appear underneath your fingertips
as words and rain and lips
–there’s always a first time

–the ink would overflow
rush through the lines
left helpless on this page

–you hold on –why not!
–already a fountain
digging for the sky

its unfinished grave
and every evening
is an everywhere her heartbeat.

*
Lifted too close this leaf
fastens on your sleeve and dries
—it must know why one ear
hears sooner than the other
forces you to turn and climb
till there's nothing left
to lose, the sun
worthless, the air
limping, poisonous

—you hold in your arm
what every tree finds too heavy
throws out and even in winter
you pick up from there
crumple your fingers till their bones
want to live at the bottom
but only one recognizes oak
from when the moon fills up the sea
drop by drop and your knuckles
pounding against each other.

*
You lean against the way each evening
fills this sink waist-deep
though the dirt smells from seaweed

and graveyard marble —the splash
worn down, one faucet abandoned
the other gathers branches

from just stone and rainfall
—by morning these leaves
will lift a hand to your face

—you drain the weatherbeaten
the mouthfuls and slowly the mud
caresses your throat —you go

shaved and the gravel path
sticks to your skin, flowing
half shovel, half trembling.

Simon Perchik’s poetry has also appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker and elsewhere.