Kevin Prufer



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
and laughing?


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 PoetryThe Pushcart Prize Anthology, Kenyon ReviewAgni, 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.


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