Five Poems

by dan raphael

The Sky’s Been Wearing the Same Clothes All Week

Locked door in the middle of the living room
Part of my neck replaced with a fresh board
My diminished turning radius
Missing the balance of a 3rd leg
Nothing above I can hold on to

Like a butterfly on a windy day
A mirrored car in a lightning storm
No one wears much iron anymore
If I condo-sat on the 21st floor I wouldn’t come down for days
What does rain smell like before it falls

Sleep demands a costume, as the idea of armor came from carp
We can’t hear the stars cause sound is so much slower
One finger for each chamber of the heart, but why a thumb

Not traffic or barking, a framed sound


feels like a warm, moist April morning
but the leaves know it’s November.
my computer says in two days
the temperature drops 20 degrees

i can connect with this discontinuity
spicing my routine with
the possibility of possibility
taking slow, shallow breaths
while the traffic inside me is steady–
no accidents, no tail-gaters, no sirens

my skin shields my inner city from weather,
seasonal change is how many layers,
the single calendar of my life with clumps of years
as months, each day a couple minutes

as if one could use a magnifying glass on time
when the only clocks that matter are cellular
the only sun’s the one i feed and water
rooted in me, my blood turning heat
into visions and maintenance, into worlds
i’ll never get to, worlds like sketches on napkins
missing the poignance of the sauce or grease stain
what wasn’t digested but refused to leave

the windows of my eyes adjust for brightness
and mist, the trees of others walking by
clouds of nascent trade, the wind i only worry about
when it stops, wondering where it’s digging
what it’s corroding, an embodiment of squirrel
a crow says there’s more to this


beef in my blood, spider skin in my hair
my lungs require several catalogues, never enough elevators
is my skin more noodle or rice, so many shapes and colors
blending in the distance as my constant muttering monologue
is mistaken for an approaching bus no one can see

for the first few weeks after conception gravity didn’t recognize me
so we’ve never been close, later i tried racing the moon
to the western horizon but had to stop at the ocean
i’d forgot that kind of walking

for years i stayed on aisle 5, then came that growth spurt
a merger, a buyout, a revolutionary process, so improved
no one wanted any, never had it before

as each morning there’s fresh underwear on my desk
my shoes seldom where i left them, will breakfast
be from a book, the radio or an open window
the 8am fighter jet is lower and off key, so many school buses
the geese keep migrating here, dogs drawn by how the wind
whistles through my ribs,

not fruit flies but winged salt crystals, the tattered crow
assigned to my wires, clouds in my lenses but not the sky
getting quick enough to embroider but what thread needle stitch
where visibility is clashing, when this glass can’t hold it any longer
and overflows, nights there’s no leftovers to put back in the fridge
the pantry can barely contain itself, the stove thinks
it must be Sunday, somehow an eighth day for laundry
and restoring the furniture, most walls don’t want to be touched

if i changed my skin as often as i painted my house
a world where there’s little difference tween roofers and barbers
a lottery where winners get a million dollars but have to leave the country
immediately and no arguing with this passport, identity as legacy,
no one here can say my name right

The Week Begins With

another rat in the house, not that hungry
scour for entries, re-set the traps
what’s a house, what’s a rat
when there’s plenty of space, food,
fear of invasion, infection, insecurity
if my house can’t stop something as big as a rat
every inch is open to virus, plague and corrosion
anyone who wants to walk right in, shoot through,
leave turds, chew what could be precious
dare me to do something about it, invulnerable as the sky
while i continue to float, unsure when i’ll be too saturated to,
too weighed down with the past, facing the bottom of the lake
unable to see the sky

no wind to dry the streets, not rained on but perspiring
the sky such a consistent gray i can’t tell how fast it’s moving
but i know it always is and no matter how still I get, how heavy
i try to be, i move along with the sky, on a long but taut leash
not a harness but choke chains on several parts of me
like a noose on my lungs, a rat trap where my heart’s the bait

the bottom drops by, i want to be safe below the surface
with a panoramic view of what’s up next. growing moss
itches so much more than growing a beard. better to have
a dozen or so long antennae like a cat than a thick beard
jumbling the reception, like the winter i stopped shaving
cause i didn’t trust myself with a razor, the winter i was certain
the vacuum between the double panes was someone’s e-mails to me,
whether personal or spam, fiction or fantasy, seeking assignation or revenge

how many die each winter from a faulty furnace and windows
doing too good a job. after covid will there be more babies
or more divorces, pharma profits not only from vaccines
but anti-depressants, sleep-aids and anti-nausea drugs
i’m always on the wrong side of the profit/loss see-saw
unable to get my feet on the ground or tell when i’m
about to plummet into the red ink of my own blood

Too Many Words to Start a Morning

before coffee, before the sun
when a fighter jet is my alarm clock
all my hands’ heat left the skin to stoke the muscles
fingers snapping to silent music
the stomach knows what should come next

takes at least two flights of stairs
(maybe the same ones twice)
for the day to officially begin
as when i get to the kitchen all the clocks reset to 7
the radio is scratching the air to be let out
already knowing what language today will be

is today bake day, wash day,
see how far i can walk before the rain gets here
i’m dressed for 3 months ago
enough material to clothe a 2 people
the thinner my hair gets the more inventive its functionality

wanting to jump but afraid of landing
thinking i should stand when i already am
“hands! come back here”

the air more textured than usual—
maybe i should treat it like another element
taking advantage of mystery, unwanted newness
open before inhaling, take inventory before letting go

the less i move the more everything else grows
crowding beyond what i can see
a door from last week, virgin recyclables
i have the secret names of the faucet and stove
tattooed near my elbow but sometimes forget which arm

as if one of my legs was 5 years older
as 5 per cent of a dog is just enough

the lights know when to turn on
but then don’t want to stop or change
walls unable to prove their assertion
if we treated floors and ceilings like just 2 more walls
i don’t call them doorways just ways
how some square foot of carpet avoids being stepped on for months

i only notice the windows when something moves past
like a me with wings. a me of external combustion

the best clue of time’s passage is aroma
peeping from surfaces to see if today has begun

 Dan Raphael feels most fortunate to have had two poetry collections published in 2020:  Moving with Every came out from Flowstone Press in June, and Starting Small was published by Alien Buddha Press in October. Most Wednesdys dan writes and records a current events poem for The KBOO Evening News.

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