There you are, old moon, old rock-in-the-sky,
still holding when I rise on shaky legs
for water to wash the bitter powder
of the sleeping pill from my tongue. How have I come
so untethered from your pull I must be chained
to the time-release anchor of these capsules?
Tonight, all I have failed to do seems important.
You, first marker of man’s aspiration
to heaven, should understand that. Tonight,
the slow disease that percolates in my liver strips
too much of the world to the bones sleeping
beneath each silken veil. Centuries of poets
have sung to you, dressed you in the faces
of their beloveds. My house is dark, and you
and I are face to face, my blood becoming syrup,
the pitted lozenge of your face a chart
of where I have not been. Let me look at you
without forgetting how the pill dissolves in water.
Let me find the right notes to make hymns
to speculation and desire. I know men have mapped
your surface, given names to your valleys
and dusty ridges. I know the right machines would
let me stand on your surface like a street corner,
the way I’m standing here, one hand tight on this glass,
the other clutching the counter’s edge. Let me be grateful
for the slow work of these pills. Let me come to you
another night with something like longing.
I know better than to believe you are listening.
But I have to say this, and there you are.

Al Maginnes has appeared in numerous publications, including The Georgia Review, Quarterly West, Bellingham Review, Crab Orchard Review, Mid-American Review, New England Review, New Orleans Review, Shenandoah, Green Mountains Review, Poem, Southern Poetry Review, Texas Review, and Two Rivers Review. He has published two volumes of poetry, Taking Up Our Daily Tools (St. Andrews College Press, 1997) and The Light in Our Houses (Pleaides Press, 2000). He teaches at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, NC.

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