Sam Rasnake: 
Three Poems

October 1988

– after Leonard Cohen

Everybody knows the plague is coming, and with that start you’ve touched the core.  Everybody knows something on someone, knows something that isn’t vital but is the thing you’ll want like rain to moss.  What everybody knows is that truth is its own opiate but the pleasures disappear in a smokeless room of voices that refuse sleep to give enough to darkness.  Everybody, but everybody, gives an ear when the voice mellows, when the blood thickens, when the hands sweat rum onto paper so the softer edges of the body fold into the poem: “the plague, everybody knows, is coming”.  Ice melts in the glass, then shadows fall over the printed page. I get up from my writing table, turn off the light, and climb the stairs.

Scientific Method

Everything to say and no ears to listen.  A world of skulls with no tympanic membrane for carrying the message – as though there might be a message.  No nods of the head.  No glances here or there.  Only words, but the saying is nonsense.

I say nothing and you feel everything.  You lift your hard jaw to the moon, mouth opening to scream the sky into place.  All the dark places.  The this and that.  You bless the stars – they burn on.  You curse the stars and supernovae begin.  A trail of remnants that is the story of silence.  All the beginnings hover, a cloud of paragraphs on a dark page.  Fingers clicking, clicking.  The closing words are full of ache.

I will hear nothing.  I will say nothing.  A body, sealed in wood, a mound of moss, nails scraping splinters into the quick.  An owl turning his head in the knotted winter limbs.  A mouse, the curve of spine trembles in waves, at the edge of a field.  And I am the white field.

The Weight

– a conversation, Luis Buñuel & Robbie Robertson

Guilt and loss ride your back with its dark humps
into streets with no names or numbers for direction,
and you’ve no idea where to go or even why both feet
are moving, scuffing over sidewalk – the soundtrack
for your small regrets, all the do and do-nots – but
you walk on. 

Window by window, door by door,
through caravans of color and flowers and smoke.
Faces smudge by for you to forget and be forgotten.

Worn books or moon or bridges. 

      The will to change,
the need to say whatever comes to mind, to make
something where there’s nothing. 

        Take this stone
from your troubled eye, lift it to my hard shoulder –
my breathing, a map for your hands – then let me walk.
Follow my shadows into all uncertainty as if one
tiny act of voice, a wisp of long-time-coming, could
change anything.  Lift your mouth and bruise the air:
Forgiveness is a terrible word in any language.

Sam Rasnake’s works, receiving five Pushcart nominations, have appeared in OCHO, Big Muddy, BLIP (formerly Mississippi Review Online), nycBigCityLit, MiPOesias, Poets / Artists, Shampoo, A-Minor Magazine, BluePrint Review, and Six Sentences, as well as the anthologies Best of the Web 2009 (Dzanc Books), BOXCAR Poetry Review Anthology 2, and Dogzplot Flash Fiction 2011. His latest collections are Lessons in Morphology (GOSS183) and Inside a Broken Clock (Finishing Line Press).

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