April 12, 2017KR OnlinePoetry

Poem; Portents


Like a yellow light means drive faster.
Like the metal stem of an umbrella
makes one feel larger in a lightning storm.
Like night makes passages vaster.
Like death makes words mean more.

Like rain fills footprints a fox left in silt.
Like one’s lips become lampreys
smuggling purple blood in death’s wake.
Like love is the word most likely to wilt.
Like the heart is dragged like a lake.

Like a good river hugs its cities to sleep.
Like the nearest star to the darkness
of shark eyes kisses the lilies alive.
Like a slaughterhouse worships its guise of trees.
Like a ghost bites the end of a line.

Like a hawk forsakes a starling’s feathers.
Like a closet trapped inside a ghost
opens and shuts like an aortic valve.
Like a song despises the cage it weathers.
Like a fractured bone forgives itself.

Like a good moon carves its oceans askew.
Like the human eyes sculpted into a whale
sink back to a deeper, older dark.
Like hope dismantles the gatehouse in you.
Like the dead drag the moats of the heart.


Or we are an ocean thrown across
the surface of a leaf
turning. Or all color will evaporate
like a lake where fish once
glowed and swam
like little moons, here and there.
Or cockroaches and roses
will hold communion in the fallout
of our thinking. Or the mind is
water in a wicker basket.
Or the hungry knife will be eaten
by a hematic anti-mirror.
Or what was a voice
will be replaced by a hole
whose limit is the sound of blood
moving through you like wind.
Or the last light will go out.
Or a miracle may invade
the natural. Or it is already too late.

James Henry Knippen's poems have appeared in Gulf Coast, 32 Poems, Mid-American Review, Missouri Review Online, West Branch, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Hayden's Ferry Review, and Blackbird, among other journals. He is the poetry editor of Newfound and teaches at Texas State University.