Back to Issue Twenty.

a wave



The space of an event is that which opens up
by the gap that separates an effect from its causes.

Slavoj Zizek

The lazy miracle a slipstream creates, we wake
out of the enormous night holding

flashlights to each other’s eyes. We travel

the house’s music, unseen life inside the silhouette
of our belongings, desire steeped in its own wild

division of things, the duffels full of clothes
in our closets, a drawer of lubrication to wet

the dangerous kisses. I can’t recognize it all.
The tulips poison the house upon entering it.

I can’t recognize the order of it all, the parties
responsible for such a disaster as poisoning

routines. I can’t recognize it calling my name

the night our house began to burn, the night
we might’ve never woken to the alarm in time

had we slept ourselves into the ground.
I can’t imagine how to recognize holding

each other into a fire or what it might’ve saved,

the water needed to douse what electricity
started the flames. It’s amazing how circuitry

can go wrong only to become exciting again
under different conditions, the alarm telling us

the story, as if we’d cut our ears off to avoid it,

our fears constructed in the grey smoke
between saving and being saved, or neither,

calling to us through the walls, not responding
to the heat we didn’t create in ourselves.

I remember running down the stairs together,
tripping over words in the haze, closely

related moments we hung on the walls,
habituated identities ghosted onto furniture,

particles in motion beyond themselves,
identifying a direction all together, all alone

when I witnessed the years we negotiated
in the unending days before the house’s wiring

gave into itself. I can’t recognize it’s opposite,

the notion where divine grace enters the house
to deliver tulips and then torches the place.

Is it wrong to ask for salvation when the word
has no grounding in our home, no object

we attach to give image to our asking for it?
And why not say the words anyway

in whatever perverse manner we might conjure
a piano playing our way out of the flames?

An image comes to take us back in time.
It is desire. It is leftover food on the picnic table

as hail falls suddenly one June. It is our son’s arm
caught underneath his body so he can’t turn

in his crib where his torso shakes, broken
record-like, because he can’t flip over at night.

It takes me
back to that place. It takes me back. It takes me.


After living in Alaska, California, and Nebraska, Bret Shepard currently lives and writes in Idaho. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Colorado Review, Diagram, FIELD, Whiskey Island, and elsewhere. He co-edits Dikembe Press, publisher of poetry chapbooks.

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