Three Poems
Brian Henry

First Snow

Who among us is alive

a temporary ailment

between nil and naught

instance of matter

illusion of same

detour this condition

what route to take

no sight to lean on

some arc uncontained

where are we

who loiter through

wherever you are

please know

I need you


What falls

when it melts

the ground so minor

the smallest shadow

could cover

one hand to hold

one hand to shape

the wet into place

beneath the rays

that drag the eye

along every shard

and absent trace


Aside the level field

of borrowed light

instance of sorrow

spent with the sun

open upon a blaze

deter a frazzled moon

you tilt your mouth

unward and decline

how you move

across the snow

across without sinking

horizon-drawn surface

Things’ Will

Where nothing’ll
burn or even

by itself or
in twos

the air has
nothing here

no effect

the air is
all around here

things pay it
no mind

will not combust
or divide

become any less
(become any
thing less)

what is there
to learn from this

Gray Easel



nested before



the Danube breaks

your poetry head

erotic effigy

low key factor

in parquet dominance

the crystal chandelier

the Czech crystal


cracks no shadow

your armpit as wet

as the Sava

is pissed in

no subway

for the dogs

to navigate

& sleep in

no caskets to raid

nothing floating

lapser of time

you circle the river

with your shin splints

a crane threatens

to hoist you


into facets

the late show of frogs

carving the night

into plasma

polka dots sweat

drag my eyes inside


fractions lose their lower


choose not to pose



& drag their sadder selves

the sun

a smallpox scar


in arm in arm

as if a guest

as if a host

as if a friend were to be found

out of focus

amid the background


& raving eye

unstar the seaside

unplug the throat

to listen to what rises

& repeats

in the aftermath

of asphalt & infarct

the lungs refusing

to fill

from the top

the city’s plaster mold

you stuff its cast

with dimes & dinars

hoard its every lack

every spear of smoke

the Sava cannot unriddle you

perforated mass

rototilled from within

voice scraped to a scrap

of a rasp

a grayyard

smeared corpuscle



as the sky’s empty promises

canopy the corpses

scratching down

the sidewalk

flint against the blare

that flicks the square

with every blink

of the brain

your poetry head underwater

& gasping for water

to slake my infection

& trim my sight

of all this



Brian Henry is the author of nine books of poetry, most recently Doppelgänger (Talisman House, 2011). His translation of Aleš Šteger’s The Book of Things appeared from BOA Editions in 2010 and won the 2011 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry. He has received numerous awards for his work, including fellowships from the NEA, the Howard Foundation, and the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Sciences.