Eric Pankey


The Last Word

Born of fire, the salamander, slowed by the cold calculus
Of the moon, bides its time.

The goldsmith hides his mark at the bristling heart 
Of the bee’s honeyed pavilion.

Cut, the Tree of Life  (also known as a Dragon Tree) 
Oozes red translucent sap.

When you enter the Underworld by way of cellar doors,
You should leave them open 
Like a dictionary on a stand: the last word looked-up 
Marred by a thumb-smudge.



Allegory of the Inevitable

  The end is indiscernible in the again; again the end:
The space between silent—singular and apart,

An extravagant foyer without ingress or egress,
Quarantined, a plague-ridden ship; a closed book.

A room magnifies the objects it limits and holds.
The constellations above—mediated by category,

By principles of collation, by curatorial idiosyncrasies—
Are mute and mutable, with the privacies of Mercury,

With the lethargic and heavy hubris of Saturn.
The hours, stored and storied in taxonomies,

Do not dissolve each into the other:
The scrape and rustle of gravel beneath a raccoon,

The roadside oats rust-blighted, the to-be-named
(A catch in the throat) there, at a remove,

And, it seems, secondhand, hearsay.
I look to the end and again find anagrams, conceits,

And rebuses, find a table leveled on the shim of a book,
A rare first edition too fragile to open and read.



Gradations of Light

Summer, a furnace of thorns and hornets,
Ends as a lizard slips beneath a gate.

What is repressed as one represents?
The glamour of the unknown?

All that is peripheral to the body’s limits?
The story is not fleshed out.

The rain, still imperfect after all the years
Of rehearsals, falls as it has fallen,

Falls through a tangle of olive branches
Through an unkempt grove where only moments ago

The wind was a harp of flames.



Eric Pankey is the author of five collections of poetry. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in AntaeusThe Antioch Review, The Gettysburg Review, Grand Street, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Quarterly, Shenandoah, and many other publications. Winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, Pankey has received numerous grants supporting his work.