Poetry / December 2015 (Issue 30)

Three Poems from The Lost Novel

by James Shea


Simple tree,

best example of what it means

to step away from me,

bolting into the sky slowly,

O simple tree, do you not see

it’s possible to leave the earth

and still touch it,

perhaps, in fact, your roots stretch

deeper into the earth than your branches above it,

but you cannot see

how deeply they stretch,

what we should make possible,

how to be,

and whom to leave.

One of your rings,

which preceded me,

has spread into the leaves,

brightening them as they fall,

a long and parti-colored wave.


I wake often for an hour or more,
falling asleep again until the late morning.
It’s like having two days arising
out of one: a shorter day, the first day,
a one or two hour day serving to delay
the longer day. I get two sleeps this way.

Between sleep, my thoughts become serious,
wherever the ink darkens. I remember almost
nothing of what I’ve written, except
that it begins thusly: Crows seal the sky.
They speak of their suffering in long, distinct sentences.
I think of carrion underwriting my work.

When I’m awake, I cannot find a moment
without a metallic whisper. I practice
an old tradition of drawing sutras on my skin.
My wayward ways are never without purpose.
The purpose is simply not always productive,
a purposeless purposiveness, these days.


It was said that we would burn
and we looked at the wet logs in the ring.
It was said that we would burn
and we found dry wood and set the fire
and put our hands in the flames and we burned,
and we said, now we are burning.

Now are we burning, and we said
we burned and we put the flames in our hands
and set the wood and found the fire dry,
and we said that it would burn.
We ringed the wet logs with our looks
and said, would that it would burn.

Would it burn, we said, and
the wet logs looked at our rings
and burn it would, we said,
and the dry wood found the fire and set
the burned flames in our hands
and now we are we, said the burning.
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