Be Still When the Stars Are at Your Door

            and run if winter starts with a brick
through your windshield; when twin midnights

            stitch their fingers into your knees—
were it not for your teeth folding over to dust,

            even the straw would look startled. You walk
down the hall with eyes like moths on fire. You beg of the lake

            until your ankles shake. In your hands,
wet leaves. In the wet leaves, the bones of an owl.

            This is an unfledged nest; this, a tether
to water; hung is the black bouquet around your neck. It wasn’t the sea

            but your skin that was seeped in brine. You were ripped
from the river by your wrist; dragged through autumn

            by the nails. When the arteries of the sky are slit, it rains
on your father’s grave. You would look for the wind

            when the trees start undressing, but you only trust
the company of dead starlings, their feathers frozen

            to the ground. In the ground, they still hear you shudder—
listen: answer the door wearing nothing but night.


My Night as a Fever and a Wing

I have forgotten the names of the faces
            of those who are passing through me,

who are lanterns and trees.
            I am farther than a seam,

Father, and I am that shameless color
            of wintered blood, a wet animal

walking from the hillside to the street,
            and I am a tunnel, a way

out, the cold that drowns
            in your teeth and listens, an ill-born.

Tonight, the fledging of birds
            is a widow. I am a window—how

do I look? Like a couple of cliffs, we turned
            our backs on each other. I left as a natant

gingko-leaf with the moon bundled in my hands,
            and I’ll wait it out. Like an old woman

in a busy house, I’ll move like batteries
            are dying inside of me. Try me

and I’ll get these walls to snap
            or the buried to clap—with one hand

I’ll pinch out a lantern
            as the other reaches through trees.


Derek Graf was a finalist for the 2013 Peter Meinke Prize for Poetry. His poems have been featured in Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, Blast Furnace Press, Misfit Magazine, and are forthcoming in Prompt Literary Magazine. He currently lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he is studying for his MFA degree at Oklahoma State University.