CONJUNCTIONS:65, Sleights of Hand (Fall 2015)

The Likenesses
Paul Hoover

Made to Resemble

a match is like a shard
the shard is like a sword

a sword is like a word
the house of water folds

the past is like a bowl
the future’s like a rope

a rake is like resemblance
don’t step on one oh no

mimesis is like mimesis
a tree is like a weed

a lie is like a fiction
a fiction’s like a deed

a shoe is like a shape note
an eye is like an island

the goose is like the gander
the sandman’s like the sand

a ribbon’s like a stipend
the bend is like the road

the cross is like a crisis
hope is like a bone

the season’s like a threshold
the forest is like a door

rats are like the righteous
the green are like the gold

life is like a sentence
a bird is like the world

reason is like erosion
names are like tin bells

to seek is to be looked for
to leap is like to fall

to think is to be distant
a soft spot’s like a blow

a river’s like a wellspring
the dead are like the soil

a chair is like a grandstand
the sky is like a dome

the sailor’s like the wave
the night is like the day

the bride is like the groom
the grain is like the wood

the end is like the beginning
the cut is like the blood

Things You Might Have Said

Things you might have said,
like “I love you” and “I’m sorry,”
wait for you ahead,
four-fingered like a ghost with digital lips
you can’t help kissing
in the dream you can’t stop having.
You are digital too,
and by design a woman.

Men bring you to their lips,
hold you, digital, in their arms.
You don’t desire them;
you symbolize their desire.
Like a character in a novel,
you are wired to seem.
Your lips and arms
are the very ache of seeming.

Never born, but much loved,
you go to bed absolved.
Digital snow falls on digital sheep
and on the field you dream.

A digital woman is designed to cry
when she becomes an actual woman
of dust and bone
and bears an actual baby
into the world’s pain.

The digital seasons pass.
You remain the dream
of an autumn too far.
You are held dear,
flicker but never age
in your digital living room.

The Windows (Speech-Lit Islands)

as if for the first time

             you recognize the grass

                         its greenness uncanny

in trying to be green

             as if for the first time

                         you open a letter

that had fallen

             through the door

                         its message unique to you

had you been

             as perhaps you seemed

                        the neighbor

the one whose name was yours

             who finally joined the army

                         had you in fact a country

a life to give

             wife and family

                         as if for a while

you could read the signs

             remembered to unlearn

                         how the wind feels exactly

going up your spine

             sensed the wheat sinking

                        into the ground nearby

the whiteness of milk

             its mystical skirt uplifted

                        miss meat and miss gravy

as if the language

             was smudged with words

                        speech-lit islands

that don’t submerge in meaning

            as if light itself

                         was never in doubt

on the question

             of transcendence

                         bees sing bells ring

in the ear’s black window

             you whisper to the glass

                        its past in sand

step back please

             a sentence is passing

                        someone’s calling

someone’s raining

             door’s creaking contradictions

                         what bride is not disheveled

by all the world’s scissors

            make-shape shiftings

                         been a long time

since you wrote yourself in stone


                         [I] seems to be alone

[I] suffers in a crowd

             but not a yellow room

                         in not a yellow town

everyone’s on loan

             but someone here knows

                         why nimble people cry

a bullet makes you die

             and then there’s you

                         absent sometimes laughing

as if at last

             there is no nonjourney

                         across the whole word

what are you thinking

            conjured of a god

                         pears you’ll never taste

lines not written

             what you know you are

                        you’ll never be again

Paul Hoover is the editor of Postmodern American Poetry: A Norton Anthology and the literary magazine New American Writing. His most recent book is desolation : souvenir (Omnidawn). A new volume, The Book of Unnamed Things, is forthcoming.