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Three Poems
All-Night Vigil

The days showed themselves in winter—
A tree, bare but for bushy vines

wrapped around its center, standing
against the backdrop of a dirty peach

house and a red brick garage.
Winter was like my house: I showed

myself—human, bare but for my clothing,
and the blood boiling, the geranium,

and other gifts. Bare but for the objects
that claimed me. What if everything

was conspiring to show you beauty.
The dirty peach house and the tree,

its hairy ivy, just for you. Like a choir.
The choir delivers us from the wreck

of a dirty life. The soloist sings high above the
choir, which moves beneath her like a wave

pulling a shell to the shore,
and sucking the pearl out. The only

word I can make out is hallelujah.
Proof that it moves me to feel dumb.

Proof that, plodding along in a dirty
life (like so) is not the act

of bearing all, but of being
bare for beauty.


The tower would miss the tower

the flowers would grieve for their wilting,
the people would miss the people. My activities
here radiate a kind of lament—

dancing to Madonna at Pablo’s party, a vodka
at Emma’s house after—there’s a glint of sadness,
they feel pre-war, pre-flood-to-come.

Should poems only be written according
to the rules of prayer? Or should they be
written in the past tense, the collective “we”

as a way to move us fast and forwarding
to the other side, where we can look back,
not from post-life but from the future as a

landscape from which to dream. The future
holds us at a distance now and promises
to hold us in its distance from the now.

Afraid of using “I” for fear of being left
in the future alone, missing the earth
and its near-by-ness. Don’t make me

stand alone in I, it’s so tall. The we that can go
unnoticed. The we that is the beginning
of Weather, the god we forgot

to name. The we that glitters
when strangers dance to Madonna, when
tenors sing in falsetto.


What It Sometimes Sounds Like She Is Singing
When it’s a lemon,
a sprig of thyme,
                        when it’s oil.

A field of vision tinted blue,
a galleon-like moon.

It’s you, and your death means
my death. The metal feeling that comes 
with the change in weather

familiar as the smell 
of an apple core.
The present is a realm we’d miss.
Clouds move with the wind,
snakes hiss.

I know someone who tells stories of his life
not like a poet but like a salesman

well-practiced in the hazardous technique
of pleasing others—selling people on himself. 
               As if a box is charming.

As if by love we ever mean
replay it all for us but wittier!
But you, you would never do this—
you would instead go off with the story 

and it would end
or not, and later you’d apologize (or not)
for having gone off so far.
       Your story not contingent
on my listening,

but eternal
for it’s the story of my birth
all the way to my death.
When it snows, 
a check mark goes green

somewhere inside me, as though it’s the season
of my ancestors, as though they had
the same dream.

Ariel Yelen’s poems and critical work have appeared in The American Poetry Review, BOMBBig LucksBOAATThe Felt, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Rutgers-Newark and is the Associate Editor for Futurepoem.