Two Poems


and because the nighttbirds had brought him into his own
dark mind, he waited for them to return and lead him out.
It had been days since he saw that ragged wake
against the stars, heard the thin peals that broke
upon the humid air, and never again.
But after that everything he touched was hot
or cold in his hands and always burning.
And his heart was a black sea urchin,
harshly spiked and full of red roe,
and when he made love it was with
the iron taste of brine in his throat,
the woman a sea-thing, too, that wrestled,
and where the darkness crazed in her
hair he thought he could see pale wings
leaking out. And his words drew back
into his throat as if terrified of the light,
and the music he loved turned into angry
machinery. And he dreamed of little
grave-feet on his chest and grim,
bony instruments that carried his face away
inch by inch. And he was not thinned
so much as hollowed out: you could
have blown into his mouth and heard
a sad and windy and wooden hooting
as though his lungs were two dry gourds..
And he finally took to planting
magpie seeds in his garden—spoons,
sterling buttons, coiled zippers,
needles and nickels—that the nightbirds
would raise out of the earth
in tangled vines of silver whose blossoms
would honey his tongue to speaking sense again.
And his scythed and fletched shadow dipped
back into the earth. He’s out there even now.
See how the moon lays eggs on the knobbed branch of his back.


Plural of bregma, the junction of the sagittal and coronal structures of the skull, known as the anterior fontanelle during infancy

The low cement clouds seal the sunset over as if to protect the light from too much of us.

We plunge our wrists into greasy baths of dishwater, coax flocks of domestic shirts down from the line, do up our faces in the illuminating blue of newscasts.

There is an earnestness to the movements we make from within the center of our exhaustions,
as if convinced we’re but a few unshelved books short of finally getting things right.

We almost had it today, had it not been for the doctor in Boise dozing off with his laundry
sogged and stilled in the machine’s unspinning drum, and that abandoned

tricycle in Anchorage. Look at how the bevel in the sidewalk nearly reconciled with itself. The
miracle will happen tomorrow, the last ounce of cloudlight assures us.

A thousand bookmarks settle down between the dry breasts of chapters 17 and 18, cluck and
brood dreamily against their expositions.

We pull the blankets higher over one shoulder, mother to ourselves in a single gesture.

Cleaving still, we emerge into this life with unfinished business, wearing our hearts at the very
brim of our skulls.

Nicky Beer’s book of poems, The Diminishing House, will be published by Carnegie Mellon Press in early 2010. She teaches creative writing at the University of Colorado Denver, where she co-edits the journal Copper Nickel.

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