Face to face: Simon Perchik

February 14, 2019


Simon Perchik's poetry has appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, The New Yorker and elsewhere. The son of a silk weaver, Perchik was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1923. He has published many books, among them: Hands Collected: The Books of Simon Perchik (Poems 1949–1999), edited by David Baratier Pavement Saw Press. In Susan Tepper's words: "there’s music here—but no soothing cadence. Instead, words clash and clatter more in the manner of plates breaking, and commonplace images ... leap into the extraordinary..." Or as Ethan Paquin put it, this is the poetry of "unique meditation on the orogeny of a soul."




Face to face though the first tomorrow

was not yet needed, waited in the Earth

as the promise to become a morning


and she would arrive between two suns

where there was none before

was the nights, years, centuries


your shadow took to darken, clings

till its silence washes over you

carried as dew and beginnings.



Drop by drop, its silence

holds on to the mud and each other

though this puddle sparkles


from tides that are not sunlight

–what you hear are the shells

darkening and their nest


breaking open for more air

the way you toss in a pebble

just to hear its ripples


as the splash from your first day

still reaching for shore, lower, lower

and flight no longer possible.



Compared to its actors in love

the movie darkens with The End

and though the stage no longer moves


you reach behind the blackening pit

grasp its gigantic monster – four eyes

four lips, four arms opening and closing


devouring itself and the screen

not yet covered with flowers

asking you to leave though the usher


has heard it all before, says it’s safe

even with the lights on, with the grass

and aisles growing over you. 



You need rain water, boiled

till the splash makes it to shore

and the egg becomes a morning


–pots know this, the hurry-up

and wait the way your hand

clings to the still warm shell


as if it was once the soft light

falling off the sun, is moving closer

to where a chair should be


have a shadow to follow it

by reaching across the table

surrounding it with a darkness


that smells from moist leaves

and the sap when this table

had corners, sides and a lid


lifted for smoke that waited

for the night, was hidden in small fires

that slowly eat their dead.



With just a rifle, lean, taut

and though there’s no helmet

one eye is swollen, keeps staring


which means the boots no longer move

–in such a silence you hear

a marching song, still warm


from the foundry when this toy

was molten iron and step by step

setting fires with ink from letters home


black, blacker till there’s no stars

where North should be –that

and why are you holding it so deft


helping it guide each night down

in the dew you dead still listen for

is spreading out behind this dam


half hillside, half being built

with so many unknowns

rusting in place, one by one.



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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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