“and even you forgot those brilliant flashes seen from afar” -Ruth Stone

The Only Job

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let me tell you what happened
to Earth I was sitting at my desk
when my eyes started to melt
I mean this as literally

as I mean anything a fire
is the world at its most literal
and there I was simply a puddle
of sight you see my eyes kept

working they didn’t stop
though I begged and begged
they insisted on doing their
job I saw stuff that day

I shouldn’t have seen but
I’m fine now really I swear
I’m even writing a book
all about the new me

On Memory

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this world is either burned or burnt

I’m sorry I’ve forgotten
the past tense

I’ve been forgetting
all my life

When and How

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Pause

A bird soars overhead in ten thousand years.
It happens slow, yet happens in time

for no one to see. This bird, I should note
is not one of ours. Its little wings,

if they can be called such, recall
the wheels an airplane might retract

before exploding in a perfect line
through the clouds. In ten thousand years,

they still pass, the clouds, though they fail
to wave hello or goodbye. They just go,

then go back, back to the start of
this poem: how a bird leaves its name

in the sky, spelling it out with one
long breath. Though, again, this isn’t

that kind of bird. This one turns toward
the sun, and stares there, holding

like a phone holds its charge. Or maybe
turns toward something else, though

never a long glance, never taking
an extra moment to stretch a moment

as far as it goes. No, not once,
not in ten thousand years.

Appears in this issue
Ben Purkert is the author of the forthcoming novel The Men Can’t Be Saved (Abrams/Overlook, 2023) and the poetry collection For the Love of Endings (Four Way Books, 2018).

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