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Simon Perchik :
eight poems

"All the huskies . . ." (first published in Beloit Poetry Journal)
"The rain is slower . . ." (first published in Brooklyn Review)
"In this dark room . . ." (first published in Santa Barbara Review)
"A few shrugs and my jacket . . ." (previously unpublished)
"How cautiously the fans . . ." (first published in Queen's Quarterly)
"A private gesture . . ." (first published in Weber Studies)
"That worn down metal frame . . ." (first published in Silverfish)
"Wherever I turn . . ." (first published in Meanjin, Melbourne, Australia)

You can read David Baratier's interview
with Simon Perchik in this issue
of Jacket magazine



All the huskies are eaten, my knuckles
reek from gangrene, the sled :beds
have their limits and the nurse
leans as if I could read the chart
would turn back and the scented ink
only flames make legible

--I'm running hot, low on oil
and the ladderlike thermometer
half slush, half a cross between
the way mechanics test
and constant tightening

while she unwraps the badly dented tray
tells me calm down, use my strength
for sleep the way lovers
are always unfolding some note
kept secret till stars, little by little
and before their eyes evening begins
and lasts forever - it takes time

though she uses a fountain pen
twisting its cap
and whatever's not strapped tight
squeaks - time and the fires

grouped just so, so not yet asleep
slowly, slowly and her breasts
almost visible, her mouth already opening
and the whisper there's still time.



The rain is slower at airports
but the planes are wary - even here
you turn around in the street
as if their wings are reaching from behind
and strangers asking, "What's your name now?"

In this hangar the air still warm with bread
--some mother has forgotten her child's name
is calling you with her belly
sticky from blood, shrapnel, the fuselage
sheared in half - these planes lined up
for some runway, for the kisses :the skies
who love you. You think it couldn't be.

You visit terminal after each terminal, expect
something to blossom, lift you into air
into some song from around a dark table
--what you hear are your cheeks
brushed by birds whose hind legs touch down
on the roadways - you come here

to stay, lay on your back
so you can hug more and more sky
--your elbows curling back, being born
and every one turns, gets out the way

--you come here to leave
and this rain before it dies
at its loudest, calls you into the sea
taking form under your arms the way a sheet
covers the dead, warms them and already the air
a shine from your new name.


In this dark room two walls
still on a collision course
--the dying are at home in corners
in chairs that sway, fill
then empty with pulleys and landslide

--we want to break into each store
before it opens - at the beginning
be there, waiting where its walls
one for the wreckage
one that dreams when it's told

--we're always rocking, heading off
--first toward the bottom sand
then backward till a wave
falls slack - we lost
are rowing! my chair
floats the way each Spring
the trees side by side
near a deep breath
that knows it will be born

--I sit and this waterlogged swing
lifts mountainsides, each peak
ringing off more raindrops
that wanted to be birds

that enter the air through a frost
whose light curves into flame
and touching down - these two walls
flying into each other
and my bones in their settle way
without me.



A few shrugs and my jacket
calmed, its fleece
a kamikaze swoon
against a firewall :my jacket
grazing on the sun :each night
the lamb staked to my back
thinks it's grass, eats through the light
and the sun who never lost before
sifts down :the stars creaking into place.

The fan's no help :headwinds
side to side each shoulder
digs out a wave :the slow roll
back into the world and from the sea

petals :rafts emptied as if some throttle
iced in its dead-straight dive
torn from the wings still circling Spring
children's songs, one valley more

and from the sea its trance :my jacket
reeking from salt block and hoses
--every night the pain in my back
points up, east, the sun
will whiten me too.


How cautiously the fans, this air
still dangerous, wiping out all traces
--the room cools and my ears

slowly at first - the engines
sound smaller, beginning to heat
--the gloves stinking from cracks

and dry blood - this air
--you've seen it done before, don't
get me nervous - closer, I can tell

one blade is gaining on the others
needs adjustment, a knob somehow
--this air wants to come back

is gaining momentum, grinding down
and the room smaller, my arms
smaller, almost forgotten - you've seen it

a hundred times, a fan in each hand
held out - just off my left arm
all those wires go on burning, to my right

the wall doesn't care - the room
cold now, cleared for weather reports
and headings - this air still lost
picking up speed, any minute now
breaking the paint and door.


A private gesture - suddenly one arm
rolls as if it found the field
could guess where the wind - you

don't see my hand over hand, by instinct
shoving the ground away - it's habit now
--wiping oil leaks

--strapped to a canvas shopping bag
full blown with groggy rags
with dangling countryside - every morning

one arm around this garbage can
calling airspeeds and where in this fuselage
there's some distance left - you

don't see the firewall
or my hand from behind, by accident
the wrong sky.and the cloud has changed.


That worn down metal frame, its propeller
hiding once the engine starts - the wall
smelling from leather and fleece, the air
thinning, icing over and the snapshot

still missing - the crew last I heard
was hand to hand as if one wall
is always falling apart - I know they're there

leaning against the fuselage, against
the huge tail fin, against the wings
and fuel - even at this altitude
footsteps and a scarf whitens on the nail
on the missing snow. I almost open the window

or a thaw from nowhere widen, bring back
the grins and campsong, the hum
a bird might take from the frosted sill
from the sky thrown over its beak.

I don't dare make a sound and the nail
whose gunners are opening letters
tugging their gloves
relying on the camera's speed - the mistake
cost one his eyes and the plane falls back
goes pale and the missing letters from home
the slow, wide swing that's always winter

always the lingering pledge
as if this dark nail would remember for the dead
--senselessly circling, believes
it's still wailing
for the faces, for this bare and peeling wall.


Wherever I turn the air needs water
--the fires calling out - it will be hours
shredding silver foil, listening
for wind and drowning - this yard

as if its air has seasons, seeds
places to hide and the hose
smelling from oil and climb - this yard

covered with England, with mist :a net
--here are my hands! coated
from mulch and faces

and a shovel that won't leave the ground
buried as if some plane took root
and the sky the sun can't see
spreads into fumes, into fog
pinned under glass and spray - this yard

has a mask :the air chilled, moist
black - her cheeks won't rot, over and over
Lili Marlene, by the handfuls

and blisters - I sprinkle these tin strips
where sparks are needed now
close to the engines
underneath the lamplight
into the wind, louder, louder.

These poems are from Hands Collected 1949-1999 (2000) Trade Paperback. Limited Edition Hard cover. Pavement Saw Press.


Simon Perchik

Photo of Simon Perchik (late 1980s) copyright © Evelyn Perchik, 1999.


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