Two Poems

by David Koehn


From Symphosius: Word Problems #38

One coxswain coaxes ten rowers
On two boats, his breath
Directs both. I am part of a long drive, my early sound
That of the paddler, the latter a snake’s echo. Affection teaches us
The art of war, to pursue the retreating and ambush
The attacker. My son speaks, my daughter
Marries, my wife lives in the white space
Between me and others, and I
Am the distance between. The everything
Plus the monsters we populate hell
With created the panther. My father feared me as a girl.
The dead are not dead. The dead are here, now,
Occupying the space between where you
Are and where your body is. The man typing
Is the dead. The man watching the dead type
Is not. The fig trees of the island bleed
Plant blood called Byzantium. Where grit
Resides in the mill of the chest,
When you remove the silent “e”
A stag appears. The funny thing about a can of pickled herring.
Because olive trees, if you watch them
Long enough, kneel and pick up
Their fruit. I am the funny thing about incest.
Sound, the answer is sound. The answer is
What is a sound, but an inlet, the easy cove
Where waves from the ocean lap against the shore.
Only virginity is postmodern, the snowy
Flowering of the date palm repeats the starry
White asterisks like so many questions.
Nothing stops lucid dreams or the black plague.
The idea of sisters giving birth to each other.


Types of Angels

This angel never takes
Action. This angel leaves
You in silence, pending
The decision to leave home
And make your safekeeping
A devil’s problem.
Pay no attention to the small box in the corner,
This angel knows
All because that box:
Shadowbox, jewelry box
Has no give, can be fully understood
Because measures can be made.
This angel misunderstands other angels.
This angel sees the world in only one dimension.
Imagination is a distance from the seen world
And therefore, subject, at a minimum, to delta time.
The straight angel cannot imagine you
Or anything else, but consequently, you cannot imagine the straight angel. Supplementary angels add up to the love you deserve which is not always the love you desire.
Angels that rust and trust. The angels in the negative space.
The light of their works will be the end of ownership of people,
The end of marriage, the end of inheritance. They allow you the illegal blueberry
And you will stay free. All that is right in the world, and therefore impossible,
Can be seen in the sad-faced green eyes of the complementary angel.
When two people intersect, their opposition gives rise
To vertical angels.
No star upstages these eyes. No rise goes unmet with wet heavens. No embrace sums up the result.
When crimson angels
Become vertical the poorly evolved affections of our DNA swing towards a true north congruent
With the sensual truth of a basoon’s ungodliness.
The dove wings of the smallest acute angel close
Fold and draw shut without end:
The aperture of the smallest acute angel
And nothingness, one.
The lipomata angel pickpockets thieves —
Pinches thumb and pointer together on both hands just inches from the eyes. Squints to investigate your Mediterranean coronas.
Tells you where you have not been.



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About David Koehn

His first full-length manuscript, Twine, now available from Bauhan Publishing, won the 2013 May Sarton Poetry Prize. His poetry and translations were previously collected in two chapbooks, Tunic, (speCt! books, 2013) a small collection of some of his translations of Catullus, and Coil (University of Alaska, 1998), winner of the Midnight Sun Chapbook Contest. He just released Compendium (Omnidawn Publishing, 2017), a collection of Donald Justice's take on prosody. His second full-length collection, Scatterplot, is due out from Omnidawn in 2020.

His writing has appeared in a wide range of literary magazines including Kenyon Review, New England Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Rhino, Volt, Carolina Quarterly, New York Quarterly, Diagram, McSweeney's, The Greensboro Review, and many others.

David Koehn

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