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Poetry

There are panels of sky
as good as forgotten,
Evans’ gelatin folds of Florida
circa 1934. The line of sky is dark at first

where the gulf hits it,
then comes to me like a halo
around the palm tree with its neck bent,

its spray of branches
leaning out of frame
as if to flee. Its roots pull
at sand, as if to say,
this is what it takes.
I’d believe, if not for the way

my breath catches
and surrenders, if not for the wild faint
sleep’s become. The palm’s branches

are tiny spears and most are left
where they’ve fallen
in the dirty sand, too heavy

for the tide to take them. Where the neck bends,
cut branches—like stubble on a chin
as seen from below—seem to ask

something like a question
of the photographer,
something not washed away

in the chemical bath. The shadow of the trunk
just underlines—means to prove the existence
of the world. It’s three o’clock
and the latticework of 1934
is pulling around me in this light

as if to say my god, my god,
a hymn sung
by infidels to believers
as a way to ask for water.


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