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Ken Meisel

Ken Meisel is a poet and psychotherapist, a 2012 Kresge Arts Literary Fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee and the author of eight books of poetry. His most recent books are: Our Common Souls: New & Selected Poems of Detroit (Blue Horse Press: 2020) and Mortal Lullabies (FutureCycle Press: 2018). His new book, Studies Inside the Consent of a Distance, was published in 2022 by Kelsay Books. Meisel has recent work in Concho River Review, I-70 Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Crab Creek Review and Trampoline.

One Holy Night, Santa Fe, New Mexico

We were laying still on a bed. Years into our journey.
She whispered to me that her hands were aging
quicker than mine. Look at the purple veins.
Preposterous, I argued. Her slender fingers,
like pink penstemon, like Santa Fe phlox,
the arms like trail head stems, like finely divided yarrow.
Do you think we will remember one another
after the rain storm, the hurling thunder?
After the light flickers out in the lantern. . .?
she asked, the full moon, naked in the window.
On the side table, a bottle of red mesa wine
& a sky thick with stars the color of yucca, mariola,
& dark too, as someone’s secret.
Maybe we will die & be reborn here, she said.
On One Holy Night, I whispered to her, we will.
& over there – where the river softens, it widens,
it trickles, laughs and wiggles into emptiness
&, under the stone bridge there, where someone’s
dropped an old bouquet of flung flowers
& where, up the road, behind a fence a solitary
guitarist strums curtains away for doorways – we will
find someone, an old person, sweeping away
the almond blossoms from a floor. Yes we will.
& inside the blossoms, there will be cut paper.
We will find one another there. Two clouds.
& over here, where the Dutch linen shirt
hangs like cream . . . & the boot heel scuffs of night
form into a little rooms, into narrow windows,
I will find you as the rain funnels a road to mud.
I don’t think you into tomorrow, she said.
It is only a feeling, deep in there, where black sticks
scatter into a crust of ravens . . . & a woman strolls
past a window, she looks into it, she recognizes
a book on a shelf with a photograph
of an almond grove on it, & a man in a hat –
low to his eyes – watches her, looks away,
waits until the dusty velvet of night
tames a lullaby into Spanish & a parrot voice
chitters & it chatters in the exact way
that memory does when it is a sharpened knife,
when it insists, like we do, to come back. . .
this is what I see when I see you & I, she said.
I remember the way you looked into me
in Paris, in Amsterdam, in Iowa, in Detroit
she suddenly said to me, eyes like blue blue iris
& . . . each night you were asleep / I was certain
you were asleep when you dreamed me / &    
when I dreamed you / too / & I was a word
with a big feeling that would slip right out . . .
& you would take it, like a pearl earring / &
place it right back on my ear lobe / on my spirit,
to make me real just as I made you real with a feather
& that is how we found one another / like this . . .
& Yes. It will be like that . . . if it is to be so,
I said to her. We will blink / blink / blink . . .
& stare into the eyes of saints until everything
is familiar again, as if previously lived, yes.
& you will wear a hat / low to brow / & be
just as you are tonight / eyes wet with tears /
& I will dab them / your tears / then wait, she said
until I can pronounce your name again / yes . . .
& I will watch as your stunned mouth narrows
like it is trying to suck on a hot chili pepper,
or re-taste my red lips on a napkin. & yes, you’ll
wrap a vowel, a single word, an echo around
my name / like it is an embroidered altar cloth
& I will watch how a man – you – who never
talks to anybody, talks softly, in remembrance,
to me.

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