HomeAboutMastheadJoin POW ListserveDonateArchive
Eric Pankey

Four Walls and a Roof

If only I were fluent in another language, I might be fluent at last and

            at least in this one.

When I hear an angel rustle in the matrix of vines and hedges amid a

            thousand thorn spurs,

When the screw-head is stripped and no tool I own can turn it,

When I find a pale blue egg fallen, unbroken, in the green shade of

            the shriveled irises,

It is my own wordlessness by which I set down the moment and its



Underfoot, the ground gives way to what was a yellow jackets’ nest,

            but it is winter,

And what might have been five months ago stories of stings is merely,

            it turns out, a twisted ankle.

Through a trapdoor, Jesus, having harrowed hell,

                                                                          pulls Adam up by

            the forearm onto stage.

There were times, when I lived on the karst topography of Missouri,

            after heavy spring rains,

The roof of a cave gave way and a sinkhole opened and swallowed a

            house, Black Angus or two.


I put a single poppy seed inside a mason jar, screw on the top, and call

            it Lethe.

I put a single pomegranate seed inside a mason jar, screw on the top,

            and call it Persephone.

Soon enough four walls are lined with shelved jars— one with a

            spindle in it, one with snake skin…

And those who enter the gallery praise the idea of the project.  Not one

Attends to craft, how not a lid is mis-threaded, how the shelves are

            level, the nails countersunk.


Lost in the woods, not acquainted with the sublime, not stumbling

            upon it by journey’s end,

I found no clues of East or North in the snow clouds ferried on the

            wind.  No sun, no stars,

Not a single landmark visible through the pines,

                                                                       through the twelve

            acres of oak,

The principalities of the screech owl, no other footprint in the vole’s

            leaf litter.

I was lost, not predator, not prey, but I am here and so I conclude I

            found my way.


-from Reliquaries