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Three Poems
Bone Fragments

Stray frays of virga. In the wood grain: line graph of annual rainfall.

Thunder, we know, lags back at the speed of sound: the past catches up. 

Along the road: barbed wire, telephone poles, vectors and alignments,

A wide array of radio telescopes motionless on rails.

The road—paved, gravel, then dirt—snakes back on itself to move ahead.

Sedimentation buries; erosion exhumes. Mark the changes.

What have we come to see: a practical field? A modest shrine?

How can one behold and not add to or subtract from the beheld?

Outside Quemado: the ephemeral phenomena of light.

To make art one must make a mark, preserve or disturb the silence.

To define a space, the space beyond it must be surveyed as well.

Imagine a field ringed by, surrounded by, enclosed by mountains.

The subject is not the edge, but the maze inherent within a grid.

No contrails. Today, I’ve counted nine antelope, eighteen lizards,

Six hares, four jackrabbits, and a falcon perched on a lightning rod.

We talk at the table as the sun goes down, talk on in darkness—

No doubt there are some kinds of knowledge that appear immutable.

This leads some people to think that the stability of contents

Is due to the stability of the container, that the forms

Of rationality are permanent
 … We talked at the table

As last light flashed, flared, and was extinguished. What was not light seeped in.

Ten thousand stars stand out from the milky smear of the galaxy.

I woke late, found bone fragments you’d collected and left on the porch.

I puzzle the pieces: a coyote’s ball and socket joint,

Or perhaps a gray fox’s or a dog’s? The cracked femur spills sand. 


Speculation on the Afterlife (I)

An herbal broom,
Dragged across the floor,
Cleans and perfumes 

The chamber. 
The ladder out, 
Forged from lead,

Slumps beneath its own weight.
Mute in cold and darkness,

The chamber of the afterlife—
A vessel like a boat,
Hollow and buoyant—

Floats upon
All it displaces.
The hollow body,

Emptied of organs,
Stuffed with crumpled newspapers, 
Along for the ride. 


Speculation on the Afterlife (II)

Forgotten things 
As murmurless

As moths and rust.
Even the sense 
Of since

Is now scumbled,
From the chalk dust 

Of a thousand blackboards
Swept into a dune
The wind whittles down.

What will the soul
Do all day,
Unstitched from its body,

From the boredom
Of weather,
The weft of days? 

Eric Pankey is the author of many collections of poetry, most recently Augury (Milkweed Editions). He is the Heritage Chair in Writing and teaches in the BFA and MFA programs at George Mason University.