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Five Poems
Sublunary Life

The boy scouts lined up on the freezing banks
about to recite their summerland cheer.
In your bath it trickled down from your scalp
to your golden neck. The parts of me
that could see this were always blundering.
I laid them to rest in the heather
beside a half-row of blue city shuttles.
They comfortably watch the semaphores
braiding the sky with silvery aircrafts
above the disengaged shallows. A dish
of its waters need not be drawn up for you.
Our bodies grew smaller when we made love
in the microtel. Ice formed on the walls.
Where are those pearly tenements now?
I brought my shoulders before their windows.
Shadows like lozenges hummed down the moat.
The water-warped doorways thrummed with the past,
and two famously lonely children beneath them
were shading in bar graphs to measure our seasons.



Fawn, asp, or crow,
my hand is lingering
over its choices
placed in a row
before my little fire.
The plot of this earth
is squirming.
The trees are locked
with a master key
in the dark.
Can they smell me
from here,
tireless cook,
and my smoke rings
at dawn, the bib
of a much younger
man at my chest,
those poor people
wearing the color
of cinders? Here
they come running
down through
the cul-de-sacs,
carriages for the dew.
Surely I have made
something worthy
of a late empire.


General Hospital

I was first on the ward
to see the sunlight fall
on the lighthouse stairs.
Emboldened, it kept me
alive for some time,
I moved more humanely,
troubling no one,
as if all distance
had been removed
as far back as childhood,
closing a gap between
boy and his overpass,
boy and his flowers beneath it.
Now in sublime vestments
I could look at the past
and see its stream
of headlights flowering,
lit by a system of roots
to which I swore I’d attend
and promised to water,
underpass god
that I had become
who knew the way
through the shining fields
which opened onto
a slumbering lighthouse
and I the only remembrancer
permitted to leave
a cupful of sun in offering.


A Father’s Dream

Visitors to the nighttime,
hand in hand, we wept,
we dreamt in the mountains
we heard our child
down every mineshaft
making a song.
Then I was deep
in the shadows of a mine
holding the brain
of an owl in my hands.
You had to carry me
in your arms
through the valley
to where the tigress wore
her husky bridle.
In her jaws was a basket.
In her basket,
the pale young bodies.
None were ours.
Her golden eyes closed
on our grief.
A river appeared.
The boatsman arrived.
I woke to the cry of a bird
forcing its body
through the thatching
of our roof.
You were outside
driving a headstone
among the sloe blossoms
into the earth.



Standing atop the moon,
I aim my tractor wheel at the Earth.

Freezing-cold disc in my hands,
it believes in an unconditional love.

It misses the sound
of the axe against the tree,

the pill dividers opening calmly
and translucent green.

Its child’s-errand was always
to detect itself in the water,

to rest in a clean white bed
that unfolded from the wall.

Now I draw it closer to my face.
Now my eye’s blue flame.

Through the icy axles
I measure the distance home.

Peter Mishler’s new work appears at Poetry Daily, Drunken Boat, The Literary Review, and in Best New Poets 2013.