the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Spring 2010



Philip Dacey


The sky has fallen to its knees again.
When the wound of the sky healed,
it no longer needed to speak.
Only the dictionary of the rain remained.
The sky crawls out of my pocket
and leads me home to my birthday party
where the insects blow out all the candles
with one converging breath.
I tell my wish only to the blueness
on its day off.
Of all the roads we must take,
the sky is both the narrowest
and the widest.
Your task: measure the distance
between you and the sky.
Is there only one sky?
Or are there many skies disguised as one?
Shaving, I nicked myself; I bled the sky.
To fall into the the yawn of the sky
is a pastime of the highest order.
The sky gave me my name
when I wasn't looking
and when I was
it kissed me.


What Kind of Poetry Do You Write?

I write poetry tumescent with blood.

Not really. I write poetry that rides
in a royal chaise atop an elephant.

Actually I write poetry that envies
the carapace of a cockroach.

Just kidding. My poetry is a tall
frosty mug awaiting a pour,
and you are that pour.

Not true. But on good days my poetry
is the kind that strolls with complete
insouciance along a busy highway's

Of course not. Nor does it sip nectar
from a flower hidden by the wayside.

Rather, it wraps itself in the silence
between the cellist's last note
and the onset of applause.

Hardly. Let me confess: the truth is
I write poetry that has slept with your wife
and for which you will thank me.



               "In Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for the peace talks,
               Farouk al-Shara surprisingly accepted Ehud Barak's invitation
               to run on the treadmill next to him in the hotel gym."
                    — Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Syria's running miles in place next to Israel.
One foot up and one down's the way to peace.
They're going nowhere mile after mile.

Start slow is the plan, then a gradual
acceleration till a dove wins the race.
Syria's running side by side with Israel.

The machines rumble so, talking's minimal,
and what there is of it's not face-to-face.
Two countries go nowhere mile after mile.

Still, when Israel hands Syria a towel,
the Golan Heights seem doable, more or less,
Syria running neck-and-neck with Israel.

Nike fills the mediator's role,
and sweat's a lubricant, diplomacy's grease,
but the going stays tough, mile after mile.

Now the workout's ending. What better goal
than hot showers? In steam, soaped up, a truce.
Who's more out of breath? Syria or Israel?
Tomorrow another treadmill, mile after mile.



"…the Nazis' obsessive bookkeeping…"

Files within files within files
have the beauty of
antique nesting dolls.
I need to make
three more friends
to meet my quota.
I'd rather run my finger
up and down a column
than a woman's spine.
Who says
numbers can't goose-step?
When my German blood sleeps,
exhausted from filling up columns,
my Irish blood decorates the margins
with useless Kellsian curlicues.
Of course the soul exists.
Shall I count it out for you?
I'll search my body
for a swastika birthmark
as soon as I've closed
this account book.
The little oblong spaces
for numbers? Not coffins
but beds for making love.
The item not accounted for
becomes the loose thread that starts
The Great Unravelling.
The Greek columns held up
only the entablature; these columns
hold up the sky.
Now I can check off
on my long list of things to do,
"Write poem about Nazi bookkeeping."



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