Three Poems by Yosef Rosen

Yosef Rosen

Yosef Rosen

Yosef Rosen is completing his M.F.A. in poetry at Bowling Green State University, and serves as Assistant Poetry Editor for Mid-American Review. His poems are published in Slipstream, The Chariton Review, Blue Monday Review, Gloom Cupboard, and Maudlin House, and forthcoming in Common Ground Review. Although he currently resides in the Black Swamp of Northwest Ohio, his heart and liver belong to St. Louis, and he can be found there during summers and occasional breaks.


Do not count
the length of every shadow, the filigree
of bubbled wax around the moon’s wide
drunken mouth.

Do not sing;
let the crawlspace
creak with the wriggle and scrape
of furred bodies; let their shuffle
carpet the midnight stills,
slow the tramp of numbered lists
within your head.

Do not soften your bread
heels in coffee. Liquids are ideal for holding
the shape of sorrow. Stop beneath bridges,
rain-curtained awnings,
sawn-down sycamores where the sky feels
soft, unpinned, new skin stretched taut
and quivering across a cut. Do not drink
coffee at all.

Do not say ecstatic. Say consistency
of sand. Test the windows’
grasp of trigonometry and while. Start
to pause. Do not.

Foliate Heart / In Which the Heart Recedes


                                                           December is a circlet of broken
                                                                       twigs on trampled grass, a scrawl

                                                                                   of fading chimney-smoke: by these,
we remember depth,
                       the cool tunneling of time.

                                                                                   The nights we are capable of
                                                                       overlooking: too many, yet all
                                                           too few. Our days

                                  a constant wavering,
                                                                       a compass slow to find
                                                                                                          its bearing.


                                  Give us something new to take
                       the place of plants grown gangly and thorn-wild,
too studded with false
                                  promise to safeguard        within reach. Too full of piercing.

All spines are become hollow. They core
                                                           the flesh, serrate, yet
                                                                       spear themselves with funnel,
                                                                                   the slick and thunder-score

of need. There is clavicle in every waking:
                                               protean featherbone,
                       an un-deciding.


                                                                                   & Squint, half-afraid
                                               of blundering past a familiar face that is not
familiar after all, but clenched
                       in frowning, a shrink from awkward gaze.


O muscle tensed and turgid,
           un-vault your rage in four-part harmony,
                                                           the boil and hiss of kettle-burn

                                                                       denaturing the wax between your slatted ribs
                                                                                                          like paddock-beams.

                       Do not slot your thrash and veiny beat,
                       an elephant gone mad with rust.

Un-wick it, let the unburned
                                               ends droop
                                                           char-less; let the cotton lace
                                                                                   your path from catacomb
                                  to star-burnt beach. As you stoop
and trace this thread, touch nothing with your knuckles,
                                                                                              lest you desire hooves
                                                                                              with which to churn the earth.


Somewhere, there is a lake shrunk loud with choking,
the burbled hiss of cackling green
and purple fronds. Now come the counters

of organ walls and wired spines
and rings of cut-down things
disclosed by steel and bared to sun. Now come

the probing minds and neoprene. Inquisitors flit from noise to pulpy noise
with telescoped appendages of chrome and bottled light. O science

man, do not say, don’t drink the water! Say, drink all the wine
a beaker holds. We are alive
with fracture and wilt; we wild our skins and split-tongued hairs; tannin-score
the pearls we gum and grin and grind. Rusting radiators, we fill

our ribs with the pollen of our ever-molting
skins, and pluck interrobangs of jetstone hair from hidden groves, use the curls
to whisk and damp the doorways in a daub of bleeding iron
and tainted water, the colorless death within.