Back to Issue Twenty-Three.

Even During the Slightest Changes



for James Tate, d. July 8, 2015

Everything is in flux, Heraclitus said,
and I believe him with my ragged heart.

My father in his boat
must be rowing on an ancient river
that might be a river
I will never touch.

My mother is standing on a station platform
gathering up her skirts
against the onrushing trains
that are neither arriving nor departing.

Whoever said life is a fire
we’re ravished by
must never have been burnt
a thousand times.

Tonight, my cousin’s tumor
is drumming too loudly in her brain,
making her listen with a different ear.

The challenge of poetry is to find
the ultimate in ordinary horseshit,

James Tate said, who is now
one among all the mysterious others,
his body at the last unwritten.

Tomorrow, when I wake,
I will think of the weather as I always do,
how I ask after it each day
with the same implacable question,
how, even during the slightest changes,
it is altogether different.



At the Neighbor’s House



It wasn’t the food or company,
we were laughing, everything
had an aromatic shape to it,
the wine, the rich sauces,
the jazz that reminded us
of late hours and smoke.

It wasn’t the good talk, politics,
religion, delicious gossip,
all we wanted to say to each other
without anyone coming undone.

It was as if something were eluding us
even as the night got darker
and the darkness painted the windows
a color we could almost touch.

Maybe it had something to do
with the sound of the wind
rushing through the garden
or the garden itself releasing
its hundred petals.

It wasn’t love or friendship,
it was a small disturbance,
longing one of us said
though it wasn’t exactly it.

It was something like a hollow
in the throat, a hole
inside the hole of the eye

a stone shining in a river
that made the river seem emptier.



All Those Whom I Have Loved



How often have I stood in a field
practicing for their departures
all those whom I have loved
and who have loved back
until I am bereft and speechless
thinking this is how it will be one day
the morning fog lifting from the hollows
and nothing of this field remaining
not even what has held me here
shamelessly and without reason
at the edge of my small poignancies
as if they were what mattered
as if they were the grief
that will come one day
as it will.


Gregory Djanikian has published six poetry collections with Carnegie Mellon University Press, the latest of which is Dear Gravity (2014). His poetry has appeared in numerous journals including American Poetry ReviewBoulevard, the Georgia ReviewPoetry, the Southern Review, and TriQuarterly, and most recently in the Cortland ReviewCrazyhorseNimrodPoet LorePoetry Northwest, and the Florida Review. Until his retirement in 2015, he was for many years Director of Creative Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, where he still teaches poetry workshops.

Next (Jennifer S. Cheng) >

< Previous (Nomi Stone)