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Lewis Warsh


The Flea Market in Kiel





Miracles of incidental longing

fill in the blanks. The same

words all over again but in different

colors. A kiss on the mouth

goes a long way. The person

behind the cactus plant lowers

her eyes.


The pablum runs down the sides

of her face. It’s an honest face

with windows where

the soul is visible. It would be

importune of me to walk up

to her & ask her to dance.

My chest contracts at the thought.

Fake tears get in the way.


They claimed that the source

of his stomach problem was something

he ate. Like shellfish? I wanted to say

but held my tongue.


Even your best friends won’t tell you.

The fine print tells us nothing

we don’t already know. A floral bouquet


for someone no one remembers.

A rock carved by Michaelangelo

in the form of a snake.







It speaks to me a voice

forever clear. The clarity

is the uncertainty

like a dead skunk on the

side of the road. Lost

highway where no

one says what they

mean. Not the

troubadours, but people

living on the edge. Mountain

people encamped in a cave

in the foothills. An escapee from

your past who lights up the

page. A gong show reject.

Your boyfriend?







This dream is no longer in service.


A fake house, a blue facade.


Anonymous voices whispering behind

the bedroom wall.


The animals gather at the fence

to eat from my hands.


The one who stands out & the other

who blends in.


The muse of innocence & decrepitude intertwined.







I wear special goggles

to keep the sparks from

blinding me. I cross the street

when I see you coming.

Please define your terms:


“depressed” “persevere” “opprobrium”


The higher I go the darker

it gets. The authorities

turn me back at the border.

They stare at my passport

& shake their heads.


Desire will come

when least expected.

Desire will come like an

inflammation of the jaw.


February: the sunset.

No tenants meeting

in lobby. A hailstorm

at midnight. To the child

a dog?







Let it be said, in the aftermath of everything, that I was wandering

in a kind of bardo & that I returned to life, with my body

intact & my breath uncertain, & that you, who I thought

had been missing in action, was standing beside me, as always,

to point out the way







I’m sorry you don’t understand the rent is due

every month. If you don’t pay the rent the landlord

gets angry. How angry depends on who it is. He might hire

someone to let the air out of your tires or post a summons

on your door. I’m afraid you’re going to have to hire

a tenants rights lawyer.


The dog under the table

eats the scraps from my plate. The coral is the color

of sunlight on water. All I can hear is the sound of my

breathing underwater. My breath is audible only to myself.

There are stones embedded in the surface of the reef.

The surface of the reef is covered with small stones.







She has to be home early

so she can make dinner for

her brothers. The cloud of

unknowing, a luxury liner

off the southern coast.

Cemeteries that resemble whole

cities but are even more orderly.

A time of internal growth

where every breath counts

for something.

Let’s escape what was given

going in circles the same

words. A rosary, the catechism,

an amber barrette.








My dental insurance doesn’t cover my family.

But today I found out I can borrow on my retirement plan.

My heart is still beating, but I don’t know for whom.

For an encore, I’ll sing “Some Enchanted Evening”

or “Up On the Roof.”







I like the way the world folds back on itself like a hinge.

I feel a terminal disappointment, as if you had forgotten my

name on the letter & it came back unread. All the

gravel under my feet leading up to the driveway, & the house

in the distance, the ampersand between house & feet, the

sleet covered roof angling over the flower bed. I want to come

in from the rain, through the backdoor, up the steps where

the grownups are getting drunk & removing the screens

from the windows. Before night comes, I’ll repair to the corner

store for a 9-volt battery & a bag of litter. They say “the night

is young” but when you’re gone it lasts forever.







You can say “Restoration” & then you can say

“drama.” And then you can see there’s a hill to

climb backwards.


You have to get your ass

in gear because the boss wants you to do something.

The assignment is due next week: better check

for spelling.


There are no ashtrays so put out your smoke

in the palm of your hand.


The last night on earth wasn’t all it was

cracked up to be. You don’t know it’s going

to be the last night while it’s happening. If it

was really the last night you’d do something

different. (Why is this night different from

all others?)


“When you left me,” the song goes, but

I know the next line. It seeps out of the grooves

into someone else’s heart.


Now that I have responsibilities I’m going to

turn my life around. This could mean

a drop in blood sugar. Did you take

your shots?


The music is coming

from an upstairs window. It

might be Handel

but it could be Verdi.







Perhaps rain falls like holy water

in the forest


but you didn’t hear it


the wings of the eagle, or something

less prurient


something that snaps in two

when you breathe on it, mi dispiace


the lost state of bliss

the redeemed & the irredeemable


all you need is a few sentences

to paraphrase


what you didn’t hear—a backdraft

of eternal mindfulness


directed at no one







There is no one to kiss.


We pass through a tunnel & the window blackens.


Smoke pours from the roof of some tiny cottage

in the middle of nowhere.


Boring romanticism rears its head


& smashes the butler over the head

with a pair of tongs. I close my book


& stare straight ahead.


I want to kiss you

I think, but don’t.







One of them throws a ball

in the air when no one’s looking.

My Polish landlady is watering

her flowers. It was fresh

in my mind but I interrupted

myself nonetheless. “I have

to think it over,” I said to no one.

You can’t drink from the bottle

without removing the cork. I’ve

seen the deadness in a person’s

eyes in which the language of

feeling was lost, to whom the

permission to feel anything had

never been granted. There was

never a day like this one when

the sky unfolds & the boat

on the edge of the horizon disappears

from view. We close our eyes

in disbelief, lost in the mist on top

of a mountain with the gods. Isn’t

anyone home? The sign was written

in a kind of primitive script. I sat

on an embankment staring

at my plate of alligator steak.

The juice in my glass was red.

It was almost summer.







And then Diana Ross & The Supremes were singing “Stop! In the

      Name of Blub”


But as I was leaving the theater I realized I could no longer

      understand the words


Because of all the people in the audience who were singing along


Or possibly we can say it was a faulty sound system


Or more to the point maybe all the words began to blur in my head


The way people look alike when you see them from a distance


So the words and the sounds never convey the same meaning


Or when I thought they meant something it was really the opposite


The glitter in Diana Ross’s hair, for instance, or her dress

      which consisted


Of thousands of tiny sequins (blinding, really, as she tottered onto the



Each sequin a tiny mirror reflecting the sun, the stars & the planets


That make up a galaxy where existence is a bad dream


From which you wake up in a cold sweat, hair matted

      to the sides of your face


The indentation of your head on the pillow—


Diana, shut up.







Once I was a jealous husband walking down Avenue B.

And once I boarded a plane & flew to Athens.

Once I hitch-hiked on the back of a motorcycle over a mountain

            on Xmas Eve.

And once I coughed & woke you up in my sleep.


I want to steal away, into the darkness, where no one else has gone.

The cold sun harbors loss at the foot of my chair.

A man with a cue card appears in the wings & everyone weeps.

It occurs to me that my audience consists of no one but you.







Now I will know myself

in the broadening vision of things that have already

happened, & steal away passed the abandoned

factories until the river melts like burning cotton on

the other side of the road, & all the buildings

of brick & tenement slide into the gully

across the bridge.


Let it be known that the bridge was built by people

you don’t know, that “all things flow” to the surface

on the edge of the sky, holding it in place

like the stars hold your face in a container

of happenstance without consequence

or desire.





17  for Katt


Not the pumping

of air

in & out

of the lungs



lest the body

fall asleep

sleeping at night


from weariness

of the flesh

Life Soul Life

I have felt it


with you


the light

& you


the genial warmth

that has made

the closed germ within me

to expand


& you

the sweet influence

that is to cherish

its perfect flower






Lewis Warsh is the author of numerous books of poetry and works of fiction such as Agnes & Sally, A Free Man, and Money under the Table. He is editor and publisher of United Artists Books and lives in New York City.


Copyright ©2006 by Lewis Warsh








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