A Specious Present

Sometimes things seem better than they are,
aura of city upwelling like a nice guitar vamp
on NPR, just before we get the news
then settling down to its jealousies and traffic.

Our ear does not perceive anything with certainty.
All we have is a swelling of appetites
and the imperatives of family—like my dead
mother, crypted four feet above ground.
My father looks at the narrow space
and wonders if “she’s cold in there.”

In Shakespeare’s couplet, “Like as waves
make towards the pebbled shore/So do our
minutes hasten toward their end,” the intensity
rises, tightening in the first syllables of the final line
and then letting go. Death is like that, returning
to the iambic foot, reaching a crescendo in its own
sweet time, bringing its odd irony to the living,
quickened in the resonance of grief.

I want to be quickened by grief.
I want the sun to rise so that it might shine on me,
offer its merciful light on my plausible shoulders.



Mark Simpson’s work has appeared in a number of magazines, including: Hiram Poetry Review, Cream City Review, Faultline, and A Clean, Well-Lighted Place. He works in Seattle as writer for an instructional design firm.