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.