SATURDAY POETRY SERIES PRESENTS: PAUL NEMSER

4.28.13
MEETING YOU AFTER CHERNOBYL
By Paul Nemser


The last frozen day had come and gone, and we were
sleeping in the elbows of trees in the elbow of a town,
our sutures all sunken together as if we shared one wound,
as if we had climbed from a single pit

like a race of dinosaurs grown from a fused lump of eggs
that had slept in valley ice for three shifts of the North Star,
as the leaves undecorated the last few branches
which were skinny as bat bones or the bones of a squirrel.

There were cattle blotched with waning alphabets.
And there were eyes that had seen too many lights,
so we didn’t recognize the wells
we had drunk from all our lives, nor

the creek that flowed with clothes and flesh,
nor the seeds brought from all over the countryside,
from knived sacks in waterlogged barns, from pods
trembling on grotesque grasses.

We talked to each other until we could not talk.
It was gobbledygook, was joy, nothing to remember:
We would not be overrun like ants by a larger horde of ants.
The darkness would not come closer.

A dog would lift its howl to where the wind left
the tablecloths—crumpled, clawed up, drying in the sun.
A phalanx of trucks that had jostled our vertebrae
would sound like bubbles in a bottle.

I never missed you so much as waking from that sleep.
And I dream of you now lingering barely below ground,
all your twenty fingers warbling together as on flutes.
My pores open to you as to rain.

Years give way to lakes of white dust, to unyielding dirt-land.
The snouts of oxen stain pale as marble
when the beasts haul blades through the hardness that remains
of what decades ago had been garden.


(Today’s poem originally appeared in AGNI, and appears here today with permission from the poet.)

Paul Nemser’s book, Taurus, chosen by Andrew Hudgins as winner of the 2011 New American Poetry Prize, will be published by New American Press in November, 2013. His chapbook, Tales of the Tetragrammaton, will be published by Mayapple Press in summer, 2014. Nemser’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Blackbird, Fulcrum, Per Contra, Raritan, Third Coast, and elsewhere. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife Rebecca and practices law in Boston. Some of his family came from Chernobyl.

Editor’s Note: Today’s poem is one of those thoughtful, emotive, beautiful lyric poems that better expresses itself than I ever could. Some days the poems just speak for themselves. Are you listening?

Want to read more by and about Paul Nemser?
Read poems from the forthcoming Taurus on Blackbird
Two poems in White Whale Review
Poem in Unsplendid
After publication in November, 2013, check out Taurus on Google Books

About Sivan Butler-Rotholz

Sivan is the Contributing Editor of the Saturday Poetry Series on As It Ought To Be and holds an MFA from Brooklyn College. She is a professor, writer, editor, comic artist, and attorney emerita. She is also the founder of Reviving Herstory. Sivan welcomes feedback, poetry submissions, and solicitations of her writing via email at sivan.sf [at] gmail [dot] com.
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