Three Poems by Dan Raphael

by: Dan Raphael

These poems by Dan Raphael explore the dearth we can’t help but feel amid overwhelming abundance, the gnawing sense of being incomplete, even empty, while so much is going on within (“one hand glows red/ with suppressed narrative—cut off a finger and two more take its place”) but also without us (“masochistic earth swooning with these many punctures”).  


New Construction

getting off the train and on the,
all given, all grown, gnawed my path on so many wheel legs,
chicken biscuits from the closet, pecs like short cake,
body it would take wire 3 decades to shape, each grain
sprouting taste sensations 2 an hour, never more, ever less
paved where i used to make music in such thin stream
my skin foams silent dessert in combustible time frames
flossing it well & respectably through several subways
before the island breached a comatose bay—
tight end split end look here
something for the burn bag

beauty for erupting, to stop the world on december 30th
we couldn’t grow rapidly enough from our fences
fused from juices we couldn’t name
rubbed into entrails, sprouting sheep to fly in august

my spirits flat, pump with a plasticene smile lubricated with flames
keep losing their way in esses to coil and split, carry & drive,
one more can of corrosive enjambment
leaving skin square so a brick can fly,
up stairs my hands glowing from inside the basements ribcage


Easier to call all of it rain

Tonights weather pursues us from bar to bar. the black and white cats—
never calico, blue, marmalade— pour out of the horizon staying dry
in the always rain of cracking shells, curtains becoming dust when touched,
counterweights our forgotten twins:
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++we’re all brain fried, stomach pumped,
bitter hair with dressing on the side swimming laps in its monkey dish;
every part of the year rife with unexpected triggers

Between one step & the next night changes to day and back again,
a thick fur on everything—reward and IOU, allergies and fingerprints
merging in mazes contradancing like quilts with each square a unique compass:
are those clouds falling or mile-long trusses

Keep your mouth shut and breathe from where your fingernails were.
snow comes through the ceiling but never reaches the floor
i thought i knew what escape looked like, hillsides painted by numbers,
thousand year eggs blossoming ephemeral daffodils, the opposite of caution,
bed sheets turned into sails the only brakes we have, more mathematics than substance

Dogs in everything: the louder their voices the more inarticulate they are,
sunlight sloshing in the well of the street while insects wavering trajectories of brassy light, shadows stuck at absurd angles as if geography was remembering somewhen else:
walls, ditches, towers absorbed overnight into a huge, motionless fairground
street aglow as if fresh from the bessemer, adapted neither for stealth or pursuit
so fancying both, hearing the invisible,,seeing tomorrows left over dishes
floating in an abandoned building foundation thats now the citys kitchen sink


From Window to Dumpling to Seed

To talk without seeing, to see in silence
breathing air so pure i’m not sure i’m breathing,
an ounce of evaporated water, dumpling puffy with disagreements:
an inner border neither side wants to cross with outer border so strict
nothing can get inside but the past, where we were educated on our knees
educated til our butts blossomed with protection


A room all staircases and landings, a human scale 3-D chess structure
in a warehouse was a slaughterhouse was an ice house
where mice remember stories of straw that broke your teeth,
when your lungs can collapse like an accordion
to squeeze you through negative space or fill with more air
than your body should contain, avoiding thorns and simmering match heads


Far enough from traffic i hear the leaves relief when the sun
crunches through the cloud cover, hear the snap-crack of light
through invisible messages, the bon mots of rain drops colliding,
the only sound i make is dry skin falling, one hand glows red
with suppressed narrative—cut off a finger and two more take its place


When i sing the alphabet one letter per breath i never make it back to A.
the shadows of letters are maps i must walk through,
vowels reappearing like squirrels at a bird feeder,
like hummingbirds slurping blood the same color as sugar water,
vocalizing everything but hums—the whitney houston of birds,
the charles mingus of frogs thickening the pond into tympanum
summer heat hammers, summer rain undressing as silently as corn


I forgot about the geese in my back pack, the metal rabbits in my trunk
creating their own juggernaut of hunger, sex and bait.
eagle beginning its plunge when the marmot decides its safe,
masochistic earth swooning with these many punctures—ant hills, warrens,
tree roots, each blade of grass a deliberate frequency,
each seed that falls surrendering to genetic impatience


Dan Raphael currently lives in Portland, Oregon where he has been active for decades as a poet, a performer, an editor and a reading host. Everyone in This Movie Gets Paid, his 18th book,  was recently published by Last Word Press. He has contributed poems to Caliban, Otoliths, Yggdrasil, Basalt and Rasputin, among other notable publications.

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