Back to Issue Thirty-Eight

Final Objects



Birds are out.
I have to tell you,

twice this week I’ve seen a red one with a red crest
low in a tree; this is supposed to mean

someone I love,
someone who died

has come to visit me.
I let the flowers in the window die;

I like how they look.
They’ve taken on a finality

in their crisp leaves,
as if they’re held aloft by a constant wind.

I have to tell you, I only wanted
to let someone know me

and to find the cut where the sky touches
the water, which goes on and on as if indefinitely.

Yesterday, at the lake
the beach along the eastern shore was a grave,

as in it was a place where broken and discarded objects lie.
You have been fixed indelibly in my mind.

And you move slowly through it
like the water, yesterday, moved beneath the sky.

There were birds startled by my presence
into flight

and moving, too uneasy for love,
beyond me in the sky.



Briefly Still



Between the Home Depots and the overgrown silos
there was an extreme of color in the razed fields

and coming into town, the crucible on our right;
I could just imagine Chris

every night, every night, saying
I won’t drink, I won’t drink tonight,

into the damp mirror of the kitchen sink. Music
grated the car stereo: a man too indolent

to break into song, to lift off from his own throat;

he’d spent his high school days on heroin, I guess,
and he can tell a story,

can take two words and smash them together
like people occasionally are smashed and occasionally

it moved some part of me
that wasn’t trained on the act of driving.

Space is something to move through.
Or, now that I’m older, I understand it’s time.

But then and there I was held briefly still
by a shock of green on the passenger side

and a stop light.
To my left was the monument

of an unused barn, ruining in mid-air,
its hulking boards snapping in slow motion, leaning into collapse;

the dark places in between causing little to no pain.

With my mother, I know it’s something else,
some exertion against pleasure

and, besides, the small darknesses in people
can’t help but cause pain.

There were flowers, too, like little white cups in the ditches,
a bird with gray wings I couldn’t name.


Genevieve Payne received her MFA from Syracuse University where she was awarded the 2019 Leonard Brown Prize in poetry. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Nashville Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and RHINO.


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