Eric Pankey

The Dictates of Gravity

If one can remember a thing

One never experienced,

Think how easy the forgetting.

At the melting point of lead,

And under ideal conditions,

The spirit transmutes to the material.


                        : :


There, where lucidity blurs,

Ghosts are inherent to half-light:

Construable, if peripheral,

Secrets not yet imparted,

Wind withheld from embers,

Heat mirrored in mirage.


                        : :


The hawk, as if ascending a tower,

Spirals toward the as-of-yet

Legible constellations.

Perspective is a fiction.

Still, one follows parallel lines

To the sharp awl-tip of vanishing.

If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven

In retrospect,

                      even error is essential,


                  if we are to arrive

At what might seem an illogical conjunction:


A fall or a cleft. The owl and the ax.

A map abstracts,

                           thus we find our way.



                        : :



Clouds bleed out to blue sky.

The dog scratches at the rug,

                                             settles in.


Yesterday is a bolus as yet to be fret apart.



                    A tale so enthralling

No one see the storyteller has levitate.



                        : :






















The wind, both proof and riddle,

Rustles the stubble,

                               spins up chaff.


In the distance, rain falls, yet here nothing


But wind, riddle and proof,


                 on the chaff and stubble.



                        : :



The soul, fashioned from ferrous ash,


And hammered to an airy edge, can cut.


If one could pace out one’s steps,

Know from the start the end. . .


If distorts nostalgia, and memory as well.



                        : :
























I have a heart of flurried snows,

Broken river ice

                          like scales, sloughed,

Cold viscous depths,

                                 dense mercury.


To the end, my heart repeats itself:

Clench and release,

                                clench and release, clench. . .



                        : :



It’s like the shush of a garter snake over pea-gravel,

Or high cloud-wisps wind-frayed to nothing,

This drone,

                   this wiry static,

That fills my head when all I want is a word

Or two, the name for this or that

                                                    stark clarity. 


                        : :



























I pawned my chair.

                          I pawned my bed

Ain’t got nowhere to lay my head.


Oh lordy me,

                  didn’t we shake sugaree?


Everything I got is done and pawned.


Everything I got is done and pawned.                                                        



                        : :



I’ll enter the afterlife empty-handed,

Without grave goods or tomb furnishings,

Pockets turned inside out.

                                          I’ll wait for you

Where wisteria overhangs the bank.

You’ll recognize my shadow

                                             by its patches, its frayed cuffs.



                        : :























On the banks, a downpour pocks the sand.


Where one might set the horizon,

                                                      a length

Of string that once mapped a labyrinth,

One finds no edge,

                               only a hung tarp of mottled grays


Behind which entropy has had its way with paradise.



                        : :



An oracle can distill from white noise a tune,

Can read in the flood-tossed rocks the fall of kings,

In blue waxen shadows an infant’s fate.


Not me.

              Each day I await a new consonant or vowel,

A new word that might replace

                                                 the ums and you knows.



                        : :























Warm wind in the willows rattles like rain,

But no rain for weeks.

                                    My mind writhes

In every direction like a snake as it moves forward.


“Stars appear,” Tu Fu writes, “and a thousand doors open.”

Years passed and I failed to open even one.



                        : :



The goatherd whistles and the dog rounds up

The stragglers.

                        Here, an eon ago one might have heard

A song played on a flute fashioned from a goat’s shinbone.

Two notes like the goatherd’s whistle—

                                                               hardly a song—

 Still song enough to imagine a third, a fourth, and a fifth.



                        : :



























I am practicing detachment,

                                            and have become artful

At the practice, but not the detachment.


Bored, I notice that I am hungry;

Hungry, that I am bored with what’s in the fridge.


I am a rich man trying to enter heaven. 



                        : :



Time to stop musing

                                  and get to work.


Cold sunlight chimes on tide-exposed rocks.

Frost flowers on marsh heather.

Wind buffets the gull’s scraggly cry.


The conundrum?

                            Musing is my work.



                        : :
























Depression, as you know,

                                         is all brambles and weeds,

Is an alloy of lead and slumber,

                                                 a spent ember

That magnifies the dark and depth beneath an iced surface.


Sometimes you break through for a breath

Before anger’s rusted anchor drags you back down.



                        : :



Snow-dust, a momentary ghost spun up,


Ice binds up creeks and streams.


At the heart of winter’s maze is refuge.


How much heat to render the mind?

All day I gather deadfall for the fire.



                        : :


























A narrow spectrum reveals the little I see.


Where the path steepens,

                                        a spotted fawn startles,

But the dog could care less,

                                           nose down,

Busy making sense of history.


Camouflaged in the dapple, the fawn disappears.



                        : :



The shaved-crystals of a cicada’s wings

Refract summer light from some thirty years ago.


You pour another glass

                                     as cicadas whirr in the pines.


We Poets, you offer as a toast,

                                             in our youth begin in gladness;

But thereof come in the end despondency and madness.



                        : :






















The garden, it turns out, is an offering

To the deer, squirrels, and foxes.


They leave behind hoof and paw prints,

Torn vines and broken stalks,

                                               some shit to season the soil.


Today there’s rain, so no need to water.



                        : :



And the fools replied,

                                  Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry

And gave you food

                         or thirsty and gave you something to drink?

And when was it that we saw you a stranger

                                                            and welcomed you,

Or naked and gave you clothing?

And when was it that we saw you sick

                                                    or in prison and visited you?



                        : :























A book falls from my hand and wakes me.



            yet in a dream, my friend, you’re driving

Your red Fiat down Providence Road at night—

The wipers can’t keep up with the rain—

And through a hole in the floorboard,

                                                            I watch the earth spin by.



                        : :



The realm of God is likened to the smallest mustard seed,

That when sown grows into a tree—

                                                          its branches reach the sky—

And the birds of the air dwell in its shade.


A grieving woman is sent to fetch a mustard seed,

A mustard seed from a house where no one has known grief.



                        : :


























In a poem of leave-taking ,

                                           one friend bids farewell

To the other, who follows a path

That follows a stream that has no spring.

The spring is dry, but not the stream,

Not yet at this point in the journey.



                        : :



Vast stars across the depths.


The moon,

                   faceless, thumb-worn,

Is as empty as my mind tonight,


Reflective, but dully, coldly,


Whole until its edges wear away.



                        : :


























A rain-drenched fox crosses the graveyard

But does not take cover

                                      beneath a tent

That shelters a just-dug grave.


Bedraggled, skinnier than one would imagine,

The fox stops once to look up at the rain

                                                                then lopes away.


                        : :



Before the wine wore off,

                                          we stood on the levee at dawn,

Watched the rivers converge.


I broke a stick and threw the two ends

Haphazardly and roused

                                       a cottonmouth that hid amid dead leaves.


From the levee, we watched the rivers converge.
































Eric Pankey

<em>Edit Poetry</em> Eric Pankey

Eric Pankey is the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently Trace (Milkweed Editions 2013). A collection of prose poems, Dismantling the Angel, is forthcoming from Free Verse Editions in fall 2013. He is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University.