Conjunctions:65 Sleights of Hand: The Deception Issue

The Likenesses
Made to Resemble

a match is like a shard 
the shard is like a sword

a sword is like a word 
the house of water folds

the past is like a bowl 
the future’s like a rope

a rake is like resemblance 
don’t step on one oh no

mimesis is like mimesis 
a tree is like a weed

a lie is like a fiction
a fiction’s like a deed

a shoe is like a shape note 
an eye is like an island

the goose is like the gander 
the sandman’s like the sand

a ribbon’s like a stipend 
the bend is like the road

the cross is like a crisis 
hope is like a bone

the season’s like a threshold 
the forest is like a door

rats are like the righteous 
the green are like the gold

life is like a sentence
a bird is like the world

reason is like erosion 
names are like tin bells

to seek is to be looked for 
to leap is like to fall

to think is to be distant 
a soft spot’s like a blow

a river’s like a wellspring 
the dead are like the soil

a chair is like a grandstand 
the sky is like a dome

the sailor’s like the wave
the night is like the day

the bride is like the groom 
the grain is like the wood

the end is like the beginning 
the cut is like the blood


Things You Might Have Said

Things you might have said, 
like “I love you” and “I’m sorry,” 
wait for you ahead, 
four-fingered like a ghost with digital lips 
you can’t help kissing
in the dream you can’t stop having. 
You are digital too, 
and by design a woman. 

Men bring you to their lips, 
hold you, digital, in their arms. 
You don’t desire them; 
you symbolize their desire. 
Like a character in a novel, 
you are wired to seem. 
Your lips and arms 
are the very ache of seeming. 

Never born, but much loved, 
you go to bed absolved. 
Digital snow falls on digital sheep 
and on the field you dream. 

A digital woman is designed to cry 
when she becomes an actual woman 
of dust and bone 
and bears an actual baby 
into the world’s pain. 

The digital seasons pass. 
You remain the dream 
of an autumn too far. 
You are held dear, 
flicker but never age 
in your digital living room. 


The Windows (Speech-Lit Islands)

as if for the first time

             you recognize the grass

                         its greenness uncanny

in trying to be green

             as if for the first time 

                         you open a letter

that had fallen

             through the door

                         its message unique to you

had you been

             as perhaps you seemed 

                        the neighbor

the one whose name was yours

             who finally joined the army

                         had you in fact a country

a life to give

             wife and family

                         as if for a while 

you could read the signs 

             remembered to unlearn

                         how the wind feels exactly

going up your spine

             sensed the wheat sinking 

                        into the ground nearby

the whiteness of milk

             its mystical skirt uplifted 

                        miss meat and miss gravy

as if the language

             was smudged with words 

                        speech-lit islands

that don’t submerge in meaning 

            as if light itself

                         was never in doubt

on the question

             of transcendence

                         bees sing bells ring

in the ear’s black window

             you whisper to the glass 

                        its past in sand

step back please

             a sentence is passing 

                        someone’s calling

someone’s raining

             door’s creaking contradictions

                         what bride is not disheveled

by all the world’s scissors

            make-shape shiftings

                         been a long time

since you wrote yourself in stone 


                         [I] seems to be alone

[I] suffers in a crowd

             but not a yellow room

                         in not a yellow town

everyone’s on loan

             but someone here knows

                         why nimble people cry

a bullet makes you die

             and then there’s you

                         absent sometimes laughing

as if at last

             there is no nonjourney

                         across the whole word

what are you thinking 

            conjured of a god

                         pears you’ll never taste

lines not written

             what you know you are 

                        you’ll never be again 

Paul Hoover will have three books published in 2018: the poetry volume The Book of Unnamed Things (MadHat Press); an Italian translation of his novel Saigon, Illinois (Carbonio Editores); and his translation with Maria Baranda, The Complete Poems of San Juan de la Cruz (Milkweed Editions). He teaches at San Francisco State University.