Piper Wheeler

Three Poems


A Little Exile

Eight blocks from your
first date. The Trojan’s torn foil
on your pristine floor. The hard
wood’s hard gleam. I’m there
with you, hanging on the girl’s
hard cry. I wish you
well, I wish she’d gasp
and arch into you
all her girlness—

This exile’s
the stupidest. Gogol in Rome
leaned his penitent ribs
into the garret’s pale air
of fatless cabbage and the Gospel,
the stench of burnt drafts.
Gogol’s correspondence with friends
went always unanswered. My friends
wish you ill; my own ink
makes a psychedelic fire,
flag-bright, unreadable.

I mouse into your Tumblr
over and over.

It was Pushkin who raged by too-south shores,
mourning tiny feet and far, far mazurkas.
Beloved, love her
above your Telegraph head shop

as though drones were a metaphor
and the Glocks at the pawn shop aimed only at venison.
As though your book would sell a million,
as though this night were all ash-strewn and crimson,

love your unknown, whose manicure tangles
your German curls. All my finest lines
ink your infantine back, your lips filthy
with stanzas. Crowded out of your bed?
I’m conducting those love-grunts,
I’ve boswelled your johnson

and that’s me urging your tongue
into her perfumed corners. In secret
Pushkin dreamt of balls at which they spoke only of him.

Exile is not the most alone!
Every country I leave will weep like a sea.


Five Scenes

Lover, it’s just like what you told me
that night in Algiers before the war:
The ribbon over your lips.
Dawn in the basement,
black satin the brightest
black I could see. Within
your voice like gold in the pan.
You know the survivors are dead now.
They passed with their eyes shut, teeth
fizzing in a jamjar on the nightstand,
flannels buttoned past the jowl.
Your head in the burlap sack, your feet
nestled, pink as those blind mice.
Around them the bungee like a diamondback.
That night: Fix me, hon. My skin’s on wrong.
The photo of the Nazi squadron splashing
on the riverbed, each stripped to the waist.
Square teeth, bright as shovels.
On every private, your wide face.
I dream of us in dim little bistros.
You loosen the knot in your tie
and feed me meat with your fingers.



The Cities We Were Building

At the arch of my insteps your fingertips.
This is the stone that floats
and the pond’s top that holds it—

Things darkness teaches. Our greed
gives its all. I am governed
by pleasure alone: the most orderly state
hears my speeches beneath marble arcs.
Listen, citizens,
to the secrets of flight:
Need nothing, and shut off the light.
I’m still hiking over hills in my iron boots.
The golden egg so shining and so wanted
is still steaming away in the hold of a boat
Housemates left the kitchen filthy.
The large earth heaves and sighs.
All our dads, alone, enraged,
dismantle the houses we were meant to get.
I smell him in the clothes of homeless men—
wet wool and cigarette ends and sweat.
The time he burned the furniture
it was meant to be a springtime ritual
and ash settled on the last crusts of snow.
Nevertheless we four shivered
cross-legged on the floor.
I can’t promise I won’t burn down this town.
Nothing so durable as the fleeting—Dear dad,
I leave my lover in bed and demolish
this sole specific darkness
with a cigarette’s conflagration
beneath the moon’s hard horn.
Nothing so durable as return.
We are always on a train
bound back for our burnt home.



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