Two Poems

Charles Rafferty

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.

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Charles  Rafferty

Charles Rafferty’s most recent poetry collection is The Unleashable Dog (Steel Toe Books, 2014). He is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. His short stories have been collected in Saturday Night at Magellan’s, and his poems have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Oprah Magazine, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, TriQuarterly, and other journals. He lives in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, where he works at a technology research firm, directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College, and is on the faculty of the Westport Writers’ Workshop.

In this fascinating new collection by longtime poet Charles Rafferty, evocative prose poems insert strange and mysterious twists into otherwise mundane middle-class scenarios. With wonderful intelligence and imagination, these compact, revelatory poems show us what is possible when we jettison accepted devices of thought for methods that are stranger, and much truer.

“Charles Rafferty has given the prose poem a new identity. Poem after poem, in his wonderful The Smoke of Horses, is lucidly mysterious. It’s as if Charles Simic got together with Robert Hass to discuss a day in the life of, say, Rene Magritte or, better yet, Milton Avery. In other words, there’s a wonderful intelligence at work here that becomes a sensibility, a quality that normalizes the odd, the strange, and makes the life it depicts as surprising and as humorous as, well, life itself.”
—Stephen Dunn

“One after another, always surprising, the transcendent short tales and meditations in Charles Rafferty’s The Smoke of Horses are sometimes lyrical and ecstatic, sometimes funny and self-deprecating, sometimes wistful, but always beautifully precise in their odd and individual depiction of our very human everyday life. The narrator may compare himself to a grackle, the grackle’s song to a rusty gate, and the reader takes wing along with him. A pleasure to read.”
—Lydia Davis

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