Franz Wright
Jenn Morea
Ted Pelton
Susan M. Schultz
Amanda Nadelberg
Standard Schaefer
Matthew Cooperman
Ed Taylor
Coralie Reed
Gretchen Mattox
Mark Rudman
Ales Debeljak
Simon Perchik
Bendall on Wagner
Schroeder on Mullen
Thompson on Gibson
Minor on Tran
Rippey on Hannah

SIMON PERCHIK : this cup half ecstasy, half adrift


Instantly! a blossom
not sure why it's climbing
or if your lips
changed color closer to the sun

joined to some soft field
you can't remember, to petals
almost those great flocks
once overhead :a warm rain
pouring unnoticed through your cheeks.

What you say floats off
and breezes long ago extinct
whose sweet light lays imbedded now
in mountainside, in the fragrance
once the name for flowers
that begin in the sky

you lift the sun and your chin
catches fire : a bloom opening
your lips and almost remembers.


What a long way they know
it's there, trapped when the ocean
sweet from that first rain
all these years its tracks
and waves one by one
trying to climb out

deep in the mine they know
how bottom sand was scoured
step by step nothing's left
except the claws and the scent
from what was once a breath
still floating on the surface.

They train for this in shifts
drift down and tied to their eyes
tiny lamps spread slowly outward
they stare at the sky

as if the mine was still on fire
they know it's here, that this mountain
is why they're afraid and bone by bone
pierce the Earth for those ravines
still prowling with dinosaurs
and with each tremor more coal
in clusters and hold
a great darkness without any water.


And the sweep
as if more and more sun
you either hear it or you don't

the way a whistle from far off
again and again returning
to its bleached railbed
as if it forgot how trains
fall away and in the distance
the sun louder than picking up speed.

There's no exact time
or where the light begins its curve
though the sound is familiar
bleeds in your mouth
tastes from volcanoes, years.

You never hear it
or you do, waiting in tunnels
and loneliness a clear light
wider than anything that lives

till nothing you say
is heard or forgotten
or the sharp tears
rushing across your throat.


The sun must crave fruit
and between these vines
a breeze still thin, gnawing
the moist stones all winter

the sun prowling, undersized
smelling from halfway up your arms
where the ground stretches out
with blackberries, with the soft cries
once prairie and mountainside
whose weight gently falls asleep
inside your bones and overflows.

What sounds like the sea
is the sunlight licking fresh fruit
all these tears! darker than waves
and your cool mouth I still hold open
on thirsty afternoons where each breeze
begins again with shorelines, with seeds
smaller than another year
and snowcries grazing the underbrush

though there is no spray
and my hand kept open
draining itself dry.

I eat these berries at night when the sun
who will grow so big I blanket them
with salt, more salt, still more
and the waves almost through my skin.


And this plane somehow
holding out its wings
the way mountainsides
lean back, held down
so the delicate turn
peels off more and more moonlight

you're used to this cold
to the whispers that stretch out
for the warming stars
and from your cheeks
their emptiness to you
these leaves are always in midair
these trees gently touching down.

You almost turn on your side
and the slow ice over your eyes
that moves without you
that covers the ground
even in the daytime. No.

The Earth will never leave you
and though face up you can hear the sky
changing colors the way this plane
all the while on edge

you almost, almost jump
and in the breeze
this simple flower I bring here
opens easily, fills
with that dark breath
I know by heart, lifts you

and slowly into moonlight
your arms around just one flower
on course and higher.


All morning I feed the petals
more and more warm water
the way a child just born
already knows to kiss head down

that all that's left from the sky
is air and in this emptied pail
a few mouthfuls, a sun
day by day growing taller

glistening with talons, feathers
rivers that eat from under their sea's
loving lullabies and drownings
and in my hand the tin pail

leans down to watch its reflection
darken from thirst and loneliness
and the ground I don't dare look up

the light tying to blind these flowers
you can feel the wrinkles where my eyes
were clawed you think it's just me
that flowers don't need to see how this rain

comes softly from my hand or how
you lifted it to your breasts
and make a morning, year after year
from blues and green and mud.


You wrote and beginners sense it's there
pry their finger under the still damp words
the way an archeologist might kneel
for traces where the first human wept

I'm just learning
and already one finger is stronger
points for the others that wait in back
closed, cold, afraid and the page

moans side to side :that ancient longing
from which all words were born
are still underwater, still reaching out
for whoever passes by, each word

lifted for its faint cry and then
that stillness the search goes on
I read outloud, listening for clues
for the beginning where there was

only one word, still new, shining, loved
held by a light not yet the sun
your page after overturned page it's there
though nothing's left from the gust

and my lips too, by instinct
welcome that same gentle finger reaching back
silencing your turbulent breasts
so that my hand might open.


Stone after stone this overburdened candle
clinging to its tears, its mountains
that smell from tides
from far off blue :a final wave
hardening midair, its sea all night

falling into dew I light this candle
as if it expected you, lift it
and the solitary Earth get a better look
all these stones and yet their winds
are far away, always far and never moving.

No. It's not that at all.

I try to watch how the mountain range
brightens when my hand lets go your breast
its great light everywhere
and the graceful rivers to taper it
the way coastlines are carried off
by seabirds stretching out
and prairie grass half thunderclap
half rock, boundless and flowing.

No, not that either. You dead stay wet
each match tormented, slowly
and along this sandpaper strip
with its box scratched open, helplessly blue
between your lips a still damp flame
let out : your breath sharp, certain, lit
held tight in my fist.


Once in dirt it wants to thaw
won't share and the sun almost in silence
while this truck backs up
and from one door that everlasting wave
promising the ground to catch fire
along the highest branch a great stag
gnawing the still green leaves

that came too close the chainsaw
back and forth, up and down all linemen
climb the pole the way a magician
will train a rabbit with one hand
to leap, in seconds, from the other

and one more branch fall into the street
it takes years for this wood to burn
for the voices I hear overhead
and where are you
now that the phone waits in the open.

I loved you before you were born
my arms even now a mouth
opening for more light and these wires
sizzling for the voice
that might be yours against my cheek.

So much sun no, not enough
though this crew from the phone company
streaks across, impatient with those calls
not yet underground and the dead
who believe the empty dirt is theirs

I loved you at birth
even that is not enough.


This cup half ecstasy, half adrift
half that delicate planet
the Earth once circled and warmed

when I glue its sides
the embrace stays blemished
traces where ancient riverbeds
sleek and lush near the grout
dry and brittle near that first dawn
broken into random days and nights
with each piece my hand
bristling with emptiness
and light blown apart.

When the glue dries
and skies everywhere holding fast
piece by piece rebuilt
the way cities are never sure
or my hand in flames
giving the cup shape and weight

you hear this cup unfolding
what is now the sun waiting to be watered
what you hear has a clear bell
is feeling its way, retrieving piece
by rippling piece bathing my hand
half mountainsides
half sometimes a great sea.


Dug out block by block the arch
cowering the way volcanoes will wait
clogged, cramped its dust-caked vault
desperate, nothing but pillars and light

that never get used to the ceiling
when I point a bit more loosens
from warmer and warmer mountainsides
barely holding on the curve

enormous, gathering with its great wing
forever in the downward stroke : a dome
half covered with marble, half
with moonlight that's still heated

by the sun lifting more and more birdcalls
at that height I still confuse the floor
with your name, whisper the way this light
melts a place for you almost a face

almost the grass warmer and warmer
it won't be you though one by one
your eyes trembling : plumes that will harden
into air, into steam and passing by.



(c) 2005 Slope. Slope is ISSN # 1536-0164.