Stephen Cramer


The waterthrush winds down
after a long day,

pulling dusk into
the sky thread by lilac

thread. All night long
we unfurl our

mathematical theories
about the cleavage

of wishbones, karma
grafted to chance & algorithm…

You say the mouth
is a wound,

but if it is then two
can heal each other,

a scar looking at itself
in the mirror. Some lips,

silvered with fishscale gleam,
supernova a dare into

your chest. Some say
the body has a stockpile

of kisses stashed in
its brightest corners,

a certain number
to dole out to thigh,

eyelashes, shoulder.
All I know is

the kiss unbestowed
shrivels & cracks,

a dry old leaf kicked
down the street.

Your eyes are like a hall
of mirrors inside

a hall of cracked
mirrors. That’s where

I want to get lost,
where I stare

into the glass & every
reflection is yours.


The Other Side

What else could the teen do
when his parents were out

but unbuckle the electric
collar from his Pekingese,

strap it around his neck,
& run at the thin runnel

of ground where they’d buried
the golden filament

of pain? He dialed it up
to two, & found that two equaled

a pinch, so he gradually cranked it up
past nibble, & bite, & burn

to ten, which is when he bounced
off that pane of air like a bird

stunned on a window.
So he gathered his feet

back under himself, turned
part bull part torpedo,

& charged. When he shook
himself awake on the other side,

a shrill burn crept like a red moss
across his neck, down his spine,

& out to his fingertips. Then: nothing.
He’d never known there were so many

parts of his body not to feel.
It took a moment to pinpoint

the exact place where his feet
ended & the grass began.

Then, when he felt like he’d slipped
back into the cramped closet

of his own body, he needed to feel
what it was like to feel

nothing over & over again,
so he started racing

back & forth through that sheath
of blazing air as some kids might run

through a sprinkler, losing
then finding consciousness

until, when he closed his eyes,
his borders blurred. He might have been

in the filaments of grass tasseling
the field’s edge, the hawk carving circles

into the day’s only cloud, the space
between the blue corners of sky.

© Stephen Cramer

Stephen Cramer’s first book of poems, Shiva’s Drum, was selected for the National Poetry Series and published by University of Illinois Press. His second, Tongue & Groove, was also published by University of Illinois. From the Hip and A Little Thyme & A Pinch of Rhyme came out from Wind Ridge Press in 2014 and 2015. Bone Music, his most recent collection, was selected by Kimiko Hahn for the 2015 Louise Bogan Award and published in 2016 by Trio House Press. His work has appeared in journals such as The American Poetry Review, African American Review, The Yale Review, Harvard Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. An Assistant Poetry Editor at Green Mountains Review, he teaches writing and literature at the University of Vermont and lives with his wife and daughter in Burlington.

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