Simon Perchik, What’s Left


There was no tree nearby though leaves
are still falling where you stood
slowly waving goodbye as if its silence

was not yet the tool for turning your lips
into the breezes that don’t move
̶ you built with that hand a grave

filled it with wood and corners
and someone who loved you
who can no longer breathe out

return your words kept warm
as if there were now two earths
one for you, the other the cold.


Still on the move, you dead
make your way underneath
pressing against each other

̶  you become the hillside
where there was none before
though the ground is far off

the way soldiers after a battle
will stand at attention
to make things stay

̶  side by side given medals
not made from stone
though one arm slides into its sleeve

reaching out as the slow bend
that carried your gravestone
to the surface, unbuttoned, dead.


You flip this jacket over the shoulder
where a wing should be  ̶  a carefree strut
that weighs nothing now, can hear you lift

till one sleeve is closer to the other
̶ it’s feathers you’re after, the climb
to when this hillside was an avalanche

covering these dead with its warmth
the way each row spreads out
and side by side the slow climbing turn

is buried under the small stones
still listening for evenings and cries
while you walk by in soft slippers.


What’s left between your fists is the emptiness
still harvesting these graves  ̶  each fall
you come here for yourself, a step by step

that seeps into the river underneath
as bottom stones, rakes for seeds
though one hand arrives carrying the other

brings back a rain that once was sky
has lost its hold, returned to earth
as if death grows only in the stillness

stone needs to reach up from this lake
and overflow, grasp you in its arms
one by one for a chain and pull.


The same star, not yet lit
arrives as the promise it will wait
though your eyes begin to close

the way some far back love song
can be seen only in the dark, each word
drop by drop tilting your throat

into the light you once swallowed whole
̶ what covers your lips now is warmed
by crawling through each breath

as thirst and small shovels gutting the earth
still listening for stones that have no mouth
no forehead and never enough.

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection The Reflection in a Glass Eye was published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library earlier this year. For more information including free e-books and his essay ‘Magic, Illusion and Other Realities,’ please visit

Read more of Simon here.

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