Today's poem is by Joshua Rivkin
In maps of antiquity continents
threaten to fall
from the world and vanish
into a serpent's open jaw as if
in relief could disappear in blue-
gray mouths of ocean or demon.
A skin over
things, we guard ourselves
flesh with clothes, eyes with shade, distance
love and the next. Carefully
we watch objects of worry
on coffee tables, widening rings
of Saturn or Jupiter, a dangerous orbit
of stain and scare,
then risk each other whenever possible.
Like how we threw you, water on fire,
all of us and couldn't
stop. This was before
and I didn't think you'd make it.
We passed you
between us. Gave you up instead
of each other as if you were the offering
for sins we had yet
to name. We were young enough
to believe you would feel it less, that storms
could pass through the young
like sun through windowpanes.
Glare casting light
across a living room, damaging
nothing at first, but wait, it happens.
Not in hours
but years, not burn but fade,
elements breaking down, a chair
in the corner
yellowed teeth or smoke. Thinned
fabric exposes its inner muscle
in the late afternoon
haze. We passed you across oceans
risked your life
for ours. Tell me you are less fragile
than continents, the maps misplace fears,
that water and serpents
cannot swallow you whole or in part,
that the past cannot be pressed
that you have forgiven me.
Copyright © 2005 Joshua Rivkin All rights reserved
from Beloit Poetry Journal
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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