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
                       land drawn
            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
                       between one
            love and the next. Carefully

we watch objects of worry
                       glass marks
            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
                       between adults
            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
                       marbled tendons
            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
                       in relief,
            that you have forgiven me.

Copyright © 2005 Joshua Rivkin All rights reserved
from Beloit Poetry Journal
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

Support Verse Daily
Sponsor Verse Daily!

Home    Archives   Web Monthly Features    About Verse Daily   FAQs  Submit to Verse Daily   Publications Noted & Received  

Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 Verse Daily All Rights Reserved