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TWO POEMS by Leslie Harrison

[No. 118]

How snow and distance equal absence the page untouched

the page a white blankness the way ink recedes from these

cold vistas its absence a kind of reverence how the moon

is also an absence untouched as if he knew it was beyond

mere wood mere blade how burdened the humans are

in their boats their roads and towpaths how there is always

something happening in the middle distance how there are

always mountains always rivers how the birds are a trick of

perspective some with wingspan like a temple’s curved roof

some reduced to black nicks in the empty sky how I too

have seen foxes in a grove under moon under stars though

mine breathed but carried no fire how I’ve longed for that

dark blue winter evening the night a pendulum the night

a fulcrum the year tips then slides across while in the sky

the stars light up as hundreds of foxes coalesce in the field

make their way toward a tree how they’re gathered there

in the winter night like candles how he must have known

the name of this how in this language we call them a leash

we call them the earth

 

(This poem references New Year’s Eve Foxfires at the Changing Tree, the 118th print of a series titled One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, by the 19th century woodblock printer Utagawa Hiroshige.)

 

 

[A PRAYER FOR OUR MORTALITY]

To begin think of wind river sand silk the various strands

currents how falling moving how leaving can be exactly

that benign a cessation of resistance a species of quiet

abnegation think then of a flame on its wick flickering

in the drift of air stubborn and still alight holding on

in the draft that sifts through a summer screen the leaves

greenly afire on their piers their waxy wicks the sleeve’s

small collapse against your arm in the breeze think

of the current of time how it too swirls eddies and then

abates as sticky afternoon slips into sticky dusk itself

slipping into moonrise into full dark think of the lit window

and you candled there you inside the moving the breaking

heart of this thing think of the glass doing its invisible best

the shell the egg of your dwelling the way it cradles you

how soft the body’s flesh how there are two of you

the unformed fetal you asleep innocent as weather and

the you that paces in all that yolk light the light that spills

thick and angular through screen and glass the light

that falls across the trimmed the orderly lawn the way

your shadow hushes the crickets afraid there in the sudden

dark the way it releases them as you vanish into song

 

 

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About Leslie Harrison

Leslie Harrison
Leslie Harrison is the the author of The Book of Endings (Akron 2017) and Displacement (Mariner Books 2009). Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Bennington Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic and elsewhere. She has held a scholarship and fellowship at The Sewanee Writers’ Conference and a fellowship at The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. In 2011 she was awarded a fellowship in literature from The National Endowment for the Arts. She was the 2010 Philip Roth resident in poetry at Bucknell University and now teaches and lives in Baltimore.​