Poetry » Joel Fry »


What I See

The world is the brightness I see,
not the mud that comes across as ordinary.
I always say this about you. This town
needs someone like you to help me
discern all its lights and sirens for posterity.
Your voice follows me at night to the end
of my wisdom, through all the trees and shrubs,
across the streets, past the closing shops
and stores. I enjoy our drives. I never refuse
to eat what’s bothering me. I never refuse
what’s on my mind as my thoughts
come to me for their approval, my avowal.
The ground I walk on is within you.
We take life seriously. We don’t move on.
We move in. The light awakens within us,
but we do not wake. No more words
are needed. The sense implies all it sees.

Each Other

What we demand of ourselves is each other,
you and I, with space between us to sail a ship.
My knowledge of the world is violent and deep,
but shifty and delusional. Everywhere I look
heels and knees vanish with hands and
tongues. I gaze up to you at the funeral to hand
you a marble I found on the ground outside.
You clutch the shiny sphere on your way
to view death as I look to you, waiting.
I can’t find what I can’t lose, but you always
help me with that. If there were any more of me
I’d be a haunted house. Inform my ignorance
with your hands so I never figure out how you
got here. Play with my vision but spare
my sight. Sing so I can misperceive the eulogy.
My focus freed from my gaze follows
the ductility of hearing when my home
is as quiet as disordered longing.

Your Second Self

Unspool your second self in me,
in all my uncharted places, the tunnels
of cacophony I keep quiet. My mind
is undefended but not unwalled. My body,
on nights like this, becomes a shiny
indention in the landscape, a pockmark
filled with rain, my footprints
leading home. I don’t know the way
my hands move over your hips, but you do.
When the strong wind blows
we retreat indoors into what might be
my house or yours, which is really no one’s
house that appears on no map.
The great writers of the world
tell us what life is, how strict, straight,
and broken, like a fallen tree at the end
of our yard, but only you give me a reason
to cut my way through it. We cannot find
the voices—our own echoes in our halls—
that call to us, least of all in each other’s
ears, where we are both lost in the husky
sound of breeze. The world entertains
an olive branch extended from a computer
screen. Mass transit passes through every eye.
Machines find themselves in people
as people find themselves in machines.
The city loses its grip on sanity.
Angels uninterested in the lives of men
are men engrossed in the lives of angels.
You take each piece of this land from me
hoping someone sees that your eyes
are the color of pine needles.
I love all the oaks of the forest stretching
back to my birth in pictures, with your
fingers like branches running through
my hair.

The Descent

Sometimes when he breaks out of daylight,
when he rises early in the summer and descends
from the third story of his house where he sleeps,
he calculates his nausea. No one
in a nightgown sees him. No one witnesses
the case he makes for his existence, postulating
other lives while frying an egg in bacon grease.
He keeps his thoughts taut and large,
shaven around the center, uneasy, lubricated
along a line of humid springs.
Old hours simmer to the surface when he was gay
and straight on different nights, following
the flower of a pleading voice that entreated men
and women for different favors. Doors
were slammed shut. He could not speak, great
shell of his mountainous back aching.
He lifts a forkful of egg from its lumpy porridge,
the pottage of his making, now the rest of his life.
A square of sunlight illuminates his bare chest.
He begins to speak.