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Sample Poems by Nicole Pekarske

Early Canvas


“Wheatfield with a Lark” — not yet a crow — and the sky oddly
serene, the swath of foreground grass untortured: stolid
horizontal bands. The brushstrokes here are fine, a dabbler’s
view while on vacation, ten days reading in a swept yard
and mild weather with a glass of beer at hand.
The lark is flying neither towards us nor away from us,

nor is he bidding us to follow. Turned upside-down, this is
an ocean or lake becalmed, and the dull green summer wheat:
fringe on a coastal merchant’s curtain. Sideways, it’s a flag with a single star.
Or the lark, stuck like a beetle in blue resin, is Vincent’s eldest brother,
still-born and just crossed over into air, a failed attempt, work gone

too quickly to its rational conclusion. This is not what he wanted,
prone to imaginings, he who’d find grief in a simple bird
that neither feeds nor falls. Let it be the paint that burns;
better a sky than the mind churning. Turn this image to the wall.

The Dead Can’t Dance     

The dead do not watch us sleep, don’t lay
their palms on our soft-sweatered shoulders and think
of the blood there, or listen, or leaf through our loosely-locked
diaries. They don’t spin wildly the dials
of car radios, don’t give us dreams. Like the ghosts

pictured in children’s books, they’re dull grey smudges
like careless erasures, and they wander
vaguely across dropped leaves, through hillsides
and woodsheds and houses left bolted and cold
for the season. Their skimmed-milk limbs might flicker

through brass bowls filled with mock apples, antique
sterling brushes we’ve laid out on dressers, but they’ll leave
no words for us in the dust; and when
they walk, limp-soled shoes make a whisking we hear,
if at all, as mouse-rustles or silence’s static.

A mournful-eyed girl might wake prickly from bed
and tip-toe to peer out a white-curtained window,
but the moon and the yoked and narrated stars
hold no message from them: to the toothless dead,
who do not cling and hence have no stake in time passing,

pattern is moot, with its roots in return, repeat,
expectation. The dead have no rhythm,
no bones for percussion and no ears for rhyme,
no throats to say please or because or forgiveness
— Do you hear me? Nobody’s father will read this.

Calais to Dover

All but the mudcolor’s compromised
under this sky flat as a hand and suggesting
lawyer-stiff sycamores, empty squares
and rooks whose beaks all point
in the same direction,

perhaps towards a woman
run aground by the shallow light,
watching from deck the shore’s whip
disciplining the landscape.
She’ll take a room

with floorboards of pressed dust
and a job hawking duty-free on the ferry.
Nights off, she’ll count into her pocket
coins for a first pint,
leaving the rest to a fate

which she knows now is thicker than love
and stronger than water.