Two Poems

Paul Guest


So her hair was a humidor and in it
was tucked every arid vice
I could think of. But in this all
I could do was fail. Little nest,
I’d say, I’d sing, I’d sigh,
while she slept and the world kept on,
there is nothing more
to add to our little pile of change.
And what could we buy
when the night shook
with the mute approach of the stars
like herds of the dead
elephants, whose graves were chalk?
Not a thing. I was poor
in our little bed
and swaddled in sleep
I tried to remember her knee against
mine. Or the grey hum
of the parking garage
that rose up
squat and stupid in raw December air
and, empty, let us
love that we were alone.
Each word into the air
I stirred like water into ink.
In imaginary Chinese I sang
to her sweet throat
bright bird, lost love, where are you now?


White dawn, it means, the word for the song
you have not heard me sing as sleep
lays threadbare and thin like a sheet
over my body. Call me a light sleeper
for the way my mind coils
up from some dream I’ll never remember,
not until over food we speak
of particulars: the bank of grey dishwater ice
in which you almost fell; the man,
blind in one eye, tripping
over me, his papers and mine a white flurry
in the street. To your shoulder
I speak of the ceiling’s vague
weather. You do not know
with each rise of breath I make of your lungs
abacuses of air. I let be
the red muss of your hair
on the pillow; I surrender the length of covers
in which you’ve wound
yourself like a spool.
I am patient like light. Outside,
the world begins
to bring in off the doorstep frosted bottles of milk
and postmen take on
the world’s burden of words —
we give to them the blank pages we could not abide.
To you I give this stillness.
It means that I must keep it.

Paul Guest

. . . is the author of The Resurrection of the Body and the Ruin of the World, winner of the 2002 New Issues Prize in Poetry. His poems appear in Poetry, Crazyhorse, Slate, Swink, Hunger Mountain and elsewhere. His website is: Paul Guest.