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Unfinished Poems

ISSUE:  Winter 2001
Is it sweat grown sweet from age
that draws you back
to undo this stack of dog-eared
yellow sheets, or some other
message seen in the stains
of coffee cups, glasses,
even burns that give off
faint smoke like talk that lingers
in the hair, the clothes,
the wallpaper of a room
your key no longer fits.

They are like ships in bottles
and old sealed watches,
and the bubbles in antique glass
that scientists now seek
for samples of the air back then.

The finished ones are closed,
and emit no odors, tastes, or even noise,
but these bring along atmospheres
because they’ve been left open
and the air still flows through them.

Though they will probably never
get any better, or improve
enough to meet the light,
you read between the lines:
a chair, a desk, the room, the life.
And in their erasures, blanks,
and crossed-out words,
endings that trail off,
and in their breathlessness
and sputtering out. . .
their gaps
like coming up for air
from old and unremembered depths.


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