terri friedman
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max henry
max henry: 5 contemporary poets next

Held, Over (for Mark Schlesinger)

Call so much of this place empty then say the rest gets

so filled up that all
the loudest smoke rises through the floorboards to make
a furnished room out of whatever you find
yourself sitting

& tapering off these days in.
How did you learn to hairsplit every sudden thing,

as flashbulbs flare
madly at your mind and its gathered wings,

yet stitch them back together to save the feel of a headfirst plunge?
Things falling fall straight down, no swerving from
themselves, but what's built ends up

its rock & paint & the skin it piled upon itself from the cellar
to its ceiling,
because what pencils do

to paper
is really nothing more than recitation, than beginning with
& starting at,

a measure of your tendon's imprecision.
And you wonder why we're anxious here, bundled up, teeth rattling,
chins pressed to our chests

just waiting
for an all-terrain sentence whose predicate rubs hard enough to bury
us in its eraser dust.

O housetop, housebound world,

some messenger beats at some door.
We were drinking, we were walking & then your foreign field's
ideation swung onto the scene
willing us
& welding
our heads into a kind of camera that thinks it doesn't need light.

A mineral cry
aimed at your macula lutea, its brutal hit a way to bounce
these square-jawed rooms & prove

the eye is only a chemical reaction with sensors plugged
into copper-blue air & our realizing that,

like faucets or like lips around spoons, someone's always turning or
something's getting swallowed.

But watch these unpedestalled skies go folding & folding more,
their borders pried open by handheld tools:
a trowel, a synonym, or maybe
this tenor saw now

severing your heat
from the fever you've spilled on this stage.
Surely that's the rough stuff we came for,

windmilling arms colliding, even in the crowdless aisles;
the downdrafts

carrying spit to coffee-cans for storage.

We're pinched against walls & we've raised ourselves a broken,
whisper-heavy roof.
The dark, then darkening ground, the feel of which

drifts across your fingertips like breath that's blown
to cool some burn,

lays far below us & sleeps as if hidden by the simple act
of lying down.

What do we see & what exactly is
sight, after being boxed up & smothered by the sun's own face?
It's nothing but our piercing

part, the piece

built out of other parts, the one no different from another,
like a small knob

on a door as big as needed to go out of here & into whatever there
there's left.


All the bang-about worlds
we knew
just left. Packed up

their silverware, trauma
rooms, satellites,

and 30 day offers, gave us
a wink then made
for a waiting curbside car.

So what's for us to pick at,
pluck or strum upon.
True, unruffled & vast

what's still here, but mostly
it's shadow's acreage. We root

around like kids hungering
after broken Cherrios

at the bottom of a spent
economy-size box.
For years we filed away

the threats, wore ourselves

out playing Great Pretender.
Now we're stuck
within a homeless

sound peeling across what
used to be horizons--

a wooden bell rung in dead air.

Some keep up the front. They hum
Mancini or scuff through

wet grass the way you once
could in sneakers.
They talk the old talk

but deep is the only word
we need in these, our daily
newborn days.

Pop Song

some of them found me,
& some of then said,
you might
as well just stall
& dive, go perilously down
through however much
air it takes
to smash your wanting more
of this on open ground
& stay there head
too low to make a peep

then i said i could surely
do that many times,
& even many times harder
but it would still be as if
i was here with you, my face
finding a way into yours,
while pleading all these
split-milk & bad-break lines,
yet knowing your listening
box is shut &
that all the heart you have
I've long since had & now lies
beaten up, unbodied,
like Liston in Miami '64

Albert Mobilio is the author of Geographics published by Hard Press