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Among the Cypresses (23 Remedies)


Cut them down
or plant them in long rows tiger-
striping a country lane, still they harbor
hangnail shades, sighs of the dead: so were said

to shoot up suddenly in the harshest soils,
unsolicited, like any bird sprung
from their useless fruit. Mourning tree,
says Pliny: dowry for a daughter. Make me

a poultice of leaves for the snakebite
riding my ankle like an angry tattoo.
For you who've gone missing
in the vertical shadow,

who knock hardhearted in the deadbolt trunk—
salvo or echo, some bystander rage: sing me
the password to your dumbstruck grief.
Ring true. For every year hollowed out

of blind disbelief
another swings on its axis like high noon's curfew—
an epoch of abscess,
self-immolation.

If we could take Pliny at his word,
follow the sweep
of Spartan shadow, trace hernia
and sunstroke to their forgone source ...

But nothing comes of it
but miscalculation, nothing but axle-grease
and bean meal for the swelling of the testes,
laughter the keenest of medicinal gulls.

Yet here they linger by the harbor,
these cypresses, pressing whose lost
sailor cause? Watch them ravage a hillside
in Languedoc, bear the writ of mistral

whiplash, scour the sky of its least adieu.
To be topmast and sarcophagus both—
to guard every graveyard
with monastic glee: is that harm's way,

or no harm done? It's the slow motion
sickness gets you in the end—you born out of
a thousand narrow escapes, breath
too close to call. Spare me

the tapering apex, spare me the generous
wick, dear witness, green as a god
or a lie. What I wouldn't give—a long arm,
a longer leg—
                     to eat the wind out of goodbye.


Kevin Craft

Copper Nickel

Number 24 / Spring 2017


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