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“(N)evermore,” “We Learn the Names of Things,” “Brief As We Are”



Rusty hinges are an ocean’s way of thinking 

      with its hands. It doesn’t imagine a flat earth

              but neither does it understand umbrellas.

I think in broken locks, in eulogies for the underneath, 

      old Polaroids, magnetic norths.

              This month I plan to advocate for sleep’s autobiography,

if only I can liberate it from the poetic line. 

      I agree to carry sleep’s ashes, 

              should it come to that, through the badlands, 

astride a dark horse of my own making.

      It’s 1968 all over again, only summer has never arrived or is perennial. 

              In the iron precincts, seasonal disorders appear regular as rain.

No more troubadours immigrating from the south, just this intermittent beat, 

      the sleepwalker tracing a line of nevermores   

              through streets named Ocean and Del Mar.  

I’m sure I’ve been here before, the dream announces.

      On second thought, what’s the image of twice—

              the exact weight in cloth of once and always.


We Learn the Names of Things


as they pass, note the countries

                 where the garroting of songbirds

      is still practiced or the captive

                           voice first begins to unspool—

                 the softening gate of the eye

      closing over a sequence of empty wings.

      Of what is devotion made if not delay—

                 door leaned into an empty field,

      sudden rain at rest, a sodden yes.

      The sullen waters will overrun the night’s low branches

                 but a thin scaffolding remains.

We have made of this place an alphabet without sound,

                 an October improvised out of wire and thread.

       This is how we learn to count—

                                       first the bird on the branch

                 then the branchless tree.

       Finally backwards sky to chance to leaf.


Brief As We Are


We still hope to know what of us 

is mineral and what flight,

what perches inside us with folded wing—

the wild raven, or the ravine carried in its chest.

Who wouldn’t want to sleep lyrically

even as sleep slips from us, seeking a kinder host.

Fox by the stream drinks without excess.

We are nothing if not multisyllabic, a yonder 

and a diagrammed sentence.

A cave that leads to morning.

Foxes folded at the x, summering

under the grammatical sun. 

Gregory Mahrer has work published or forthcoming in "The New England Review," "The Indiana Review," "Green Mountains Review," "Volt," "Colorado Review," and elsewhere. His latest collection, "A Provisional Map of the Lost Continent," won the POL prize from Fordham University Press was published in the Spring of 2016. It was also a finalist for the 2016 Northern California Book Award. He lives and works in rural Northern California and Baja California Sur, Mexico.

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