My Bright Head

Makes shadows, makes noise, calls

the ambulance, breaks glasses in the sink. 

My bright head has three eyes. One

only sees darkness, the other two

I try to keep closed.  My bright head

finds three pennies in the drawer and then

loses them in the gutter.  My bright head

has a drowned wick; however long I burn

my fingers on the match, the candle will not stay lit. 

My bright head arranges flowers in the flame. 

My bright head rides in a carriage drawn

by carrion flies and crippled mice.  It takes

a holiday.  It takes a drag from the cigarette

of the man with a disease my bright head

can’t pronounce. My bright head doesn’t

have a mouth, so don’t wait for it to tell you

what is wrong, where he will be staying.  

Ghosts of Love

We pretend we are them.  They play piano in the dark.

They frighten us.  They make noise in the other room

where no one is.  We think we see them.  We make

love to them; they hollow us like taxidermy,

skeleton what was.  We dream them;

they have no faces, their hands, blurred. 

I see photos of them, but I never believe they are

real—their luminosity, no sense in our world,

fireflies in human form.  And their voices recorded

by the sound engineer sound dolphins in static fog.

We believe they communicate something we never know.

They terrify us—Is that the right word?—we turn on all the lights. 

They change the thermostat to low so cold blows

through furnace grates, keeps us awake through the night

no one knows as I do.  They unmake beds, dirty dishes,

rearrange books on bookshelves.  They ruin all

the compasses in the house, the star charts, translate

sacred books back to dead language.  They return

my prayers as stones in silver bowls with dry marigolds

and pheasant wings, tell me what to say when nothing’s left. 

Joel Long’s book Winged Insects won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize.  His books Lessons in Disappearance and Knowing Time by Light were published by Blaine Creek Press in 2010.  His chapbooks, Chopin’s Preludes and Saffron Beneath Every Frost were published from Elik Press.  His poems have appeared in  Interim, Gulf Coast, Rhino, Bitter Oleander, Crab Orchard Review, Bellingham Review, Sou'wester, Prairie Schooner, Willow Springs, The Pinch, Quarterly West, and Seattle Review and anthologized in American Poetry: the Next Generation, Essential Love, Fresh Water, and I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights.


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