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how human nouns
They Said the Smallest Wooden Horse Was Dead in Your Costume

gone unnoticed the inevitable protagonists accrue 

fragile centipede working rot into unreliable endnotes

a storm, cicadas, ribbons of smoke above the river

somewhere else a war 

light falls as usual

& the hour fails to be episodic 

in the most expensive suit I’ve ever worn


A Point of View apart from a Personal Embrace

watching the unfolding of an envelope 

a red thread from a felt purse 

landscape pulled in increments 

or another anchor to architecture love

to the voiceover of someone older 

if this desire for narrative outweighed 

our unwillingness to concede an end


To Map the Wearing Away of Things

what endows an anecdote with so much tinder 

a particular tree in how light fell

how human nouns what the nucleus of commerce won’t replicate

the world in a real enough window

money made of money a bare ankle 

pacing from the vault to the podium 

to fasten the world a believable cape


The Forest Burns into Later Time

all that I saw from the balcony 

an evening’s warranted fiction yoked

little lamb that gathers & gathers against a half-eaten idea

I’m writing from the weather 

inside a dictionary of difficult words

details solidify with each retelling 

but someone coughs & the theater caves in


Nothing under the Stones but the Story of Lifting

in one scene we stood on a bridge 

watching boats catch in their sails late wedges of light

there was grace, ease a hero’s mask assembled 

from an hour’s background music

our inclination to trail a supposed mother toward the concrete

a crow calls out its lineage in a single note 

a surrogate thorn an imperfect Xerox 


A Due Measure of Duration

already dusk bringing a different feeling 

to the scuttle of leaves, billboards outlining the city 

outliving directives in a little book of prayers 

a cue to place the pencil down & wait 

for the refrain to repeat itself

somehow we sustain history 

one hand making a fist, two a steeple 


One Event Collapse into Another’s Unsaid

an evening worn on the locality of thinking 

imagined as a tactile day-moon

unanchored as I am 

by letters, books, creased sheet music

cicadas’ shells lodged between lengths of sawed lumber

the public they, gloved in expectancy

O sweet Rashomon, it is thick & manageable & perpetual


It Was Raining near Dusk & I Was Still Reading

from a window painted shut to a woodcut 

of the player’s fingers nailed to a flute

beautiful as laugh tracks alone with our wallets 

I’d call you uncomfortable in dress shoes 

while the night comes undone waiting 

still there is lightning & inevitable rot

the pronoun’s shadow—its dark lake


Simple as a Wall Painted Blue

scaled from sovereignty to ethos 

the logic of a button worn from overuse 

I’d change my shirt to say “story of the day”

like a coin that previously fit the slot no longer deserving 

another city’s disorder or the bird’s moronic circles

evolving a gentle etymology of sky

memory handles what comes to sister missing 


Figuration in Conflict with an Afternoon

whose you is a whisper all verb 

whose you a child’s hair in flames

whose you is replacing a curtain 

whose you is thickening the mortar 

whose you imprinting a beating heart 

whose you aged a flower 

who found it dried in the center of a book


An Approximation of the Actual Letter

I died in a book 

& couldn’t touch the ink around me

it was autumn

I died in a book asking

the word for leaf for leave 

I died in a book on the eve of music 

in the distance, another distance


If There Is Always a Room’s Reversal of Events

a painted over presence from ear to understanding

what won’t wash in the agreed upon outcome

of a stand-in for our refusal of silhouettes

spilling momentous into scenery

a still life not so gone to greener pastures

that I can’t forgive myself an afternoon 

unlocked unbroken untangled unaired

Noah Eli Gordon teaches in the MFA program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and is the author of The Source, from Futurepoem Books. Other excerpts from it can be found in New American Writing, Shadowbox, Aufgabe, Black Warrior Review, and Denver Quarterly.