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Four Poems 
The bee
was all green except for some late
pollen on its legs. The bee
was all green though I could see through the green
body. How is this possible? I thought
when I was a boy but not
now. “The bee was all green” 
is what he whispered into my ear when
he was dying. “The Invisible’s
real,” he said and we were looking out the window
into the rain when a wind arose
stirring the pages of a book
when he was alive. Last
night the bee appeared in dream 
where I was a boy with a red hive beyond 
which names swarmed in the night round his calling.


In the meta-dusk when the dusk is not
yet. In the meta-dusk when our bodies dissolve
I looked into the black vault of a fish’s
eye and could see how the dead wake for one
long second and smile while stars find their steep
nails that silver and stage history. In the meta-dusk
where the dark is not yet, I glimpsed in that fish’s eye
the long stain of words that will appear like grass
one morning when our bodies dissolve and our faults
are none as the motionless sun illumines the green.


The Man
asleep on the couch has a horse’s
head, while his human body sheds patches
of chestnut hair I try to paste back on. He moans 
occasionally and I hurry as though completing the puzzle
of a journey. How? How? he seems
to be asking, to which I answer now with each
mend of his coat until I hear
the way a word covers a sound, and a sound
covers a feeling is how
I know I’m missing, waking in the closed pasture
we call house, where promises fail like fences, windows,
and our beds are so steep & groomed with meaning
it’s difficult to lie down.


A Tale of Hats

Because the bodies were so filled with bodies they sprouted heads
then needed to sleep and when their heads woke

they felt naked so they found hats. The first hats
were made of tree bark and straw so the new heads

could sleep, though some say the hats grew out of sleep
as houses grow out of earth, while others

say that the hats are tunnels to somewhere else, and yet
some swear that each hat buries the body, and if one

wears a hat to sleep, the dead come back, especially those
loved, and gather there, where sorrow

becomes joy in that small tent of shadow
where they come to breathe. 

Mark Irwin is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Shimmer (Anhinga Press, 2020), A Passion According to Green (New Issues, 2017), American Urn: New & Selected Poems (1987–2014) (Ashland Poetry Press, 2015), Tall If (New Issues, 2008), and Bright Hunger (BOA Editions, 2004). Recognition for his work includes The Nation/Discovery Award, two Colorado Book Awards, four Pushcart Prizes, the James Wright Poetry Award, the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry, and fellowships from the Fulbright, Lilly, and NEA.