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Two Poems

The Problem with Sappho

Only one complete poem remains. The rest of it is berries left in the bramble after a visit from midday starlings. For years I couldn't understand how this redaction moved anyone to tears. She was a dampness in the matchbook. But the world is patient. Eventually the diamond travels from the mantle to the finger of the woman you love. Eventually the light from an exploded star arrives to confirm the emperor's power. It's clear now that a very old bruise can tell us how hard someone was punched. The detective solves a murder by the help of a single hair. Archaeologists find a molar and build a face to fit.

The Saddest Bid for Immortality Ever Devised

I used to transcribe my poems on the blank pages of books by famous poets. I imagined they would ride into the future like remoras suckered to the belly of a powerful shark. But the librarian would always find them and black them out. Later, she resorted to excising the vandalized pages with a ruler and a blade. Those stubs at the end of Paradise Lost in the Mount Laurel Public Library? That's me.

Charles Rafferty

The Smoke of Horses
BOA Editions

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