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Jacket 19 — October 2002   |   # 19  Contents   |   Homepage   |  Catalog   |
This issue of Jacket is a collaboration with Verse magazine

Kevin Prufer

Three poems

Cicada Shell

It is a shell, if by shell I mean something emptied out,
crawled out of.

I hate the beetle grip on the screen door, the abdomen
like an extinguished bulb.

In its translucence, the possibility of ocean

or crackle, were it to fall, driftingly, to the porch floor
and stepped on —

Someone should fill it with light.
Give me a syringe. I will inject it

with maple syrup. A cicada shell ought to be
amber to the tongue,

a little death in every husk

so the yard is full of mourning.
The trees, on their leaves, shudder-a warp and wail of legs, a click

in the bug-larynx.
I'd swallow them like pills, if they contained

their own rejuvenation. I’d let them wobble
like drugs in my palm.

My father died last night. I was far away.

I want to pop them like grapes between my fingers.
Their juice is sweet in my useless hands.

For the Dead

So many have before me, I said,
gone this way. As though I should, therefore, not
be afraid.
              How to sing it? Like a bird might sing me away.
Outside, the car tires crooned, each to each,
through the slush,
                             and the bus brakes and the ambulance,
in its siren, a lilting tune. Don’t, I said from my little room
how many storeys up,
                                   sing me away.


Or perhaps I didn’t. The mind was empty and numb.
So much, in retrospect-the sense
                           that now the city lived
as a bird might live on a branch, the heart quick in its little
wire ribs-so much that, at the time,
                   was uncertain or absent
entirely. I could not think I was dying when, at last


I died. The snow came down. And somewhere, two boys
in a truck, turned wrong
                                        and kept turning in the sleet,
through the rail and down
             the embankment slope, turned
over and over, while the blond one cried out and the truck stopped
on its side


            in a scatter of birds lifting up, and up, like a net
pulled taut at the corners, from the trees.
                                                  A silence,
a breath of smoke, as later
                               the city, alive and the boys gone


and I, somehow, also. But could see it,
            my hand placed over my chest.
Could see it, when, at last, someone closed my eyes —

A single bird remained on the branch to watch,
crushable in its feathers and bones,
                                                a delightful machine
that could not help but swallow its heart.

Hospital Song

The doctors can’t say, so no one knows
when the  brain goes

dead. Toe twitch, grip
in the hand when the pin

slides in. Did an eyelid flutter? Breeze
where the earhole fails and a sea

begins. Surf in the skull. True,
something ate the cortex away. Oh, true —

and the breathpump groaned
so the chest just rose.

When the mind is a muddle of foam
each kind word floats away. Some-

one take the tongue or the body will speak.
Pull the plug so the brain can sink.

Zero where it counts and free —
it should be like a shark asleep in the sea.

Jacket 19 — October 2002  Contents page
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