How does the body contain so much blood?
The brain sleeps in it
so when we bleed we lose ourselves.
The brain under its curved sky of bone, the brain that turns on its stem
like a water lily.
A cluster of leaves and bloom, a hum of flies. The day retards
into dusk. Horsefly, dragonfly,
a dull thrum of clear wings against the ear. What is their language?
I want my hands to flex when the doctor stings them.
I want to open my mouth and speak.
It is either a long and mindless sleep
or a translation into a language I do not know.
The blood that washes the brain to sleep. The wings that rest
on the unfurled petal. Divine translation, strange word, insect
where the soul should be.
The Fall of Rome
After a long time in the empire of light
the flowers quit beating their wings in the vase
and dawn rose like a cupped palm from the house.
Red stones in the bottoms of the wineglasses,
the lamp that fills the chest with shadows—
where are the revelers, the charmed, teetering on their heels
I thought it was a lifetime
of digital TV, surround-sound, plasma flatscreen—
The poor burned in the fields like oil wells.
Now I know the walls were full of microphones.
The little camera eye of the television that twitched in its socket
and glowed. Oh, give me, give me, I remember saying.
Now, nothing—an electric hum, an empty room,
a guilty bottle tipped to stain the rug,
and snow all morning. The ones who leaned against the walls
and drank and laughed
are gone and will not come again. The house—my house—
is a pall and a gasp. The barest scent of smoke
from the oilfields—
Here is a vase full of red feathers.
No, it’s a dying bird.
Kevin Prufer is the author, most recently, of Fallen from a Chariot (Carnegie Mellon, 2005). His previous book, The Finger Bone (Carnegie Mellon, 2002), was a finalist for the Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. His new poems appear in Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, Kenyon Review, Agni, and Ploughshares. He is Vice President of the National Book Critics Circle and Editor of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing. He lives in rural Missouri.