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By Simon Perchik

PROMPT — If only ...


You think it's a breeze and not some butterfly

spreading its great wing in front of the sun

the way your early arms would sweep clear

the path already widened for flying stars

now left to drift while still in formation

and everywhere at once as the wings

now lifeless as a wall that's not stone

is thinner than its shadow and reaches through

̶what you hear you heard, was a kitchen table

and in the same breath becomes laughter

family, far away uncles, cousin-in-laws

whose names too are now forgotten

though they still overflow, are lifted around and

around telling you it's still possible

for a sky without its warm rain or morning.


Stretched out on the water, a sky

is still drying off though the early sea

stayed behind the way every fossil now

leaves its last breath ̶in time

this cemetery will be harvested

and every grave listed into a circle

piled so each tear warms the others

by reaching down, reminding you dead

it's two hands you're drinking from

and in between nothing but silence

̶there's room now for another breath

already with a shadow, has your voice.


The shadow that never leaves

is lifting her arm, lets you move closer

see how the grass carries away its green

has become darker, almost black

̶the sun too lost its life here

was broken apart and all afternoon

you wait though the stars grow back

and from the same place call out

till her grave takes hold the Earth

drops it into your breath stone by stone

as the one knock after another

against a door that no longer opens

yet lets out her voice as the undergrowth

swaying side to side ̶a frail breeze

smelling from dirt and hand in hand.


With each kiss your breath

presses against this dirt

still warm from shovels

emptied one by one

the way this hillside drifts

weightless to the sea

as shoreline for the descent

your emptiness makes

into an ancient valley

where there was none before

̶you dead are used to this

fill your mouth with the cry

not yet the word for footsteps

that come by to listen and stay

̶not yet the words for gravestone.


Though this hat has lost its authority

you can hear the plea its fleece makes

for grass ̶what you hold in your hands

can't save you now and the mower

slips and stalls ̶you're still seated

facing the controls, in the same formation

the dead learn early from each other

are constantly looking for place

to land the way this lawn becomes

a pasture where your head is lowered

already covered with dew about to burst

into flames as songs from the 40s.


Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Family of Man Poems published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2021. For more information, including free e-books and his essay, “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit Simon's website at Simon writes from East Hampton, NY. To view one of his interviews, go to:


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