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Five Poems, by Brendan Lorber


The creature making noise

As long as the creature       making noise in the wall      stays in the wall
it’s fine       for the moment      to be invisible        especially if we’re the
creature      We see       only what we can        imagine        and what’s here
is invisible ’til it’s gone        like our friends’ innocence       or the rainforest
into an airquoted reliquary        of forget-me-nots         The rings of a tree
that counted on us        to convert our winking heirlooms       into less prosthetic
visions of the future        We’re so good at irony       because it’s what we
were handed        off to so often         it sprang new sincerities         the way
a starfish stops growing      new legs      after having enough of them cut off
and starts growing knives        We can agree      what killed the dinosaurs
is back        but not what it is        or even if there ever were dinosaurs
The dread of having overlooked something       is so patient          how it waits
for all the copies to be printed       with typos on the frost line       which
we forgive      long enough         to build a way of life         that unravels itself


To be afraid of death is proof you’re still alive

To be afraid of death        is proof you’re still alive       so I’ll forgive my fears
as my fears forgive        the death of all certainty         in the latest report
that says we’ll be dead        in a month       but was written two months ago
Being lost is kind        of an arrival           the way a garden       overrun with
perennial faceplants        becomes the sort of home        that breaks into itself
and leaves         something behind          From here, I can see       the unrevealed
unraveling        has already been composed           Though I can’t tell if it ends
with a long national weekend of       sheesh, that was weird       or moving day
to where the chalk outlines       suit our clothes        and the etymology of half-
forgotten words        gets made new again          aboard foreign ships in the
harbor       The cheerful toe tag’s belief       there might be anyone left
to read its final words       at the orphan-run five-borough mobile quicklime
ossuary         that wheezes uncertainly        among sunlight slanted particles
as though meaning meant anything         to the empty space       we vent into


The impersonal upholstery of dark math

The impersonal upholstery        of dark math         wasn’t designed to provide
comfort        even if a number       like pi goes on        long after the thrill
of counting is gone        We didn’t ask to be fleas        the earth chose
this night to shake off         Or dander on the lint brush        Not even essentials
get a break        Especially not them       But numbers remain strategic in their
abstraction        the way steps of a checklist       keep pilots too busy for fear
during the kind of emergency      where enough parts        have fallen from the plane
that maybe         it’s not a plane anymore        but more of a flakey acquiescence
from hard science       into the pi day memes of a nation      born under a new sign
like kick me         and slowly dying of boredom         before the coming quicker
death from within        that’ll knock the intimate lyric        up the charts     and
into six-foot plumes      of the human biome        where none shall pass       this
homecoming weekend          that stretches         indefinitely epic and prepping
to be tutored          by the glinting scythe         of American exponentialism


Come to the window my sweet

Come to the window         My sweet        sense of the night       lets you see half
drunk       cups of tea on Peter’s table       as he fights a new cough        with ideas
that make the twentieth century exist          like statuary          brought to life
when its subject shows up        and nonchalantly leans against itself        to explain
statues         are more alive than people         because they have a purpose         and
one gets a low tide Matthew Arnold vibe        on his sad Dover Beach honeymoon
until Peter spills the tea       on which brittle part of the system         the disaster will
snap off first to chew          and you realize it’s probably         the floor under you
unless you’re lucky        as he was a kid       in the London Blitz        and later the go-to
to get from        the Vietnam draft         Did I mention Peter’s old age       is like
being young again         I imagine        in that you imagine        you can just look out
the window and see how it’s all going to end        and maybe you can      with a memoir
written faster than you can live it        recited underneath a cough        as quiet as gravel
footsteps        on the far end of a driveway        walking to the house with news


The self-defense class is all in

The self-defense class        is all in      on Aurora’s strong feelings
about violence        but not what those feelings are         beyond
unearthing new kickable sources of discord         as the new family
tradition        I should know better         than to ask how today went
when the answer is       my plexus at the nexus of her birthday Docs
I’m not mad at you        they say        I’m mad at your need for protection
and at anything that masquerades as certainty        awful as any virus
that learns by doing us in           Like how it was once impossible to sleep
without Puppy         and now it’s impossible to sleep         because Puppy
doesn’t talk        to her anymore         Her perception of reality rendered
him dead        and her parents on their way       Is there some secret language
I can use to bring him back?       To align the inner and outer worlds
and to make the imaginary true?      Where everything inert is alert
alive      conversational       and angry         to be considered anything less?


  • Brendan Lorber is the author of If This Is Paradise Why Are We Still Driving? and several chapbooks, most recently Unfixed Elegy and Other Poems. His work appears in the American Poetry Review, Big Other, Fence, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. Since 1995, he has published and edited Lungfull! Magazine, an annual anthology of contemporary literature. He lives atop the tallest hill in Brooklyn, New York, in a little castle across the street from a five-hundred-acre necropolis.

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