Simon Perchik

2 poems


You never know what
staring from this scale
as if my weak arches could adjust
its lens —I'm on TV

on some dirt hill
that's only eight years old
trying to climb back
be the breeze and boy king.

When there's no toys
you make a throne, waving belly-laughs
and wreckage :my bathroom scale
a rampage till just as suddenly
it stopped counting —you crouch

on the six o'clock news
— who knows whose slipping arm
will be again around some afternoon
trying to climb back
or if the disembodied voice
isn't from your schoolhouse desk

—Miss Dempsey, it's too windy between
these numerals, these ankles clanking
the way mountains all evening
lift the Earth into darkness

and redemption. You never know
what and you weigh yourself
after each dream.

You wait for me. Asleep
your arm around your other arm
so they won't break off, are warm
despite the altitude and speed

dreams need —you never know
—that dirt hill sometimes and sometimes
not, climbing on my lap
as if it remembered and I
could still laugh from my belly
from under these broken arches.



The stream we thought extinct
still carrying off these birds
— it adapted to the heat, flows
unnoticed, its only predator
confused :oblique sunsets

harmless dawns —in such a current
leaves screeching through the gusts
rip away their green for altitude
less weight, less memory

less evening —I lift this stone
as if it were more flames
a sudden flower
rushing through my throat
— I almost drown

pulled by a breath always thirsty
always listening for whirlpools
for the heart torn loose and boiling

—in these rapids
still struggling, the stone
clings to its feathers :my hand
lifted without remembering its cry.


Both pieces were written to, or rather, against the photographs published by the Museum of Modern Art as The Family of Man. The idea for each of the two poems comes from the image I see in the photograph. I then confront that image with a contradictory idea from myth or science and then, over the next week or so, resolve the contradiction. Brutal work! Incidentally, there are 482 photographs in FOM and it took over 8 years of 365 days, 6-7 day weeks, 3-5 hour days. I must have been insane! Anyway, it's over. Pavement Saw Press, who published my Hands Collected, plans to publish all 482 poems in one volume.