(Oliver Roos/Unsplash)


Venus above a blue-rimmed moon
looks through racing clouds at the frozen river,

O my God, can you believe that, even
rats stay away from these sewers.

Consciousness dissolves into nothingness again,
immanence, transcendence, that talk again, 

the snow on the sumac’s red berries,
geometric shadows in ink-black haze.



I know, she’s trying to say something  
but can’t open her mouth shut

tight with blood, we, we’re stuck here,
the planet, for God’s sake, is stuck here,

perforated eyes, wounded intestines,
wounded spines, punctured eardrums,

oligarchic immoralists with government portfolios
in iron masks. September is remembering

the watchman who balances a stone on his knee.
The dead return to retrieve what they’ve left behind:

a ring, a scarf, a sock. Inscriptions: names,
dates, covenants. Stars’ secret sacramental

signals. War, floods, fires, plague,
the four what of which apocalypse?

Judgment’s conscript, to ascertain,
to discern. Heaven’s conscript, parsed

with histories, the sun’s bronze disc,
rain splashed on a rose, pointed at me.  

Published in the December 2023 issue: View Contents

Lawrence Joseph is the author of seven books of poems, most recently A Certain Clarity: Selected Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). He has also written two books of prose, Lawyerland (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and The Game Changed: Essays and Other Prose (University of Michigan Press). He retired as Tinnelly Professor of Law at St. John’s University School of Law and lives in New York City.

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