Originally published in Poet Lore Volume 114, Number 3/4

They have blown the bridge
behind the bridge
into the water; the girders
that described its span
rest upon the lips
of barges, still formed.
Concrete pylons vaporized.
Gone. I can’t understand
why they leave it, broken,
kneeling on the river,
a steel net, an old scar.

You ask me, is it your fault;
it sounds so much better in French,
don’t you think? Est-ce de ma faute?
Of course it is, all of it:
The sun on the snow, the beaver dam,
the red osiers. …

Originally published in Two Cities Review, Issue 20, Winter 2018

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We talk about the wreckage, a hillside of trees stacked
the saws have been buzzing and snarling for weeks.
Trees come down like great knuckle cracks.
Another development with “river views.”
A catastrophe. There have been others:
the election, something wrong with the fridge,
your Gran passing.

We are heading into a catastrophe of clouds;
some storm kicked up over Lake Ontario
or Erie. A dead tree is weathered into bone;
some cars flicker, a procession of candles
parallel the train; red-and-green running lights,
a single tractor trailer against the green base
of the mountain. So that’s night,

I dream we are together, though we will meet
somewhere below the Middle West. Past midnight
in Ohio, the carriage fills with Amish,
moonlight hollows their faces, but they smile,
read magazines. We pronounce it
with such overweening, personal pride,
“catastrophe.” …

Published in INSCAPE 2019

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“It’s been a hard day; we deserve this.”

This is the kind of thing we post now,
in-between pleas for a restoration of sanity
and airline customer-service complaints,
in-between links to articles about celebrity beefs,
and articles about the slow-motion apocalypse,
of global warming. An old, colorized picture
of Sophia Loren, in Napoli, making a pizza.

“It’s been a hard day; we deserve this.”

I have to wade through GIFs to get to it,
a Japanese mascot running
from bombs, in another a large bear on a small
bench, in a pristine wilderness,
yawns. Sophia is not dressed for it. …

Published in Chicago Quarterly Review, Fall 2018

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The neighbor kids
have painted an Easter scene
on their window: white rabbit,
green grass and trees,
a red sun.

This last fact seems
to have bothered them.
They write an apology,
enormous block letters,
taking up a third of the entire
pane: “We don’t have any yellow,”
and an arrow, to explain.

But the iron-oxidizing red,
the glassy smear of it
as it thins at the edges, this
is right for Easter. Apology
is right too, I think,
blood sweating
from the shoulder
as I carve the lamb.

From Common Ground Review, Fall/Winter 2017

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I have been awake, dreaming of shipwrecks
ancient planks unraveling from broken ligatures,
Marseille, Marseille, Marseille, Agay-
Anthéor — (avaient perdu leur…
had lost
their…” Underwater, the sound of waves above
seethes and rushes, no
underground on a subway ride,
and everyone, and I, are tired, and tired
nod together like kelp, that rushing,
air from an eyebrow-window
cocked. I feel pressure on my knee.
“À partir de 600 av. J.-C,” light speckles
moldering wood, rolling like a voice,

“What is it you’re reading?
Faction, or non? I just want to talk to you.”
A thick, friendly face, reeking of beer,
an eyetooth’s a gap, gaping. I cower
down into the sheeny page.
Six-hundred years before Jesus Christ.
“I know about books,” he says,
I just want to know, is it Stephen…” trailing off,
he gives up. His hands rest like
leather crabs on the bright denim
of his knees. …

Originally published in Third Wednesday, Vol. X, №3

Learn what parkour is.

Direct a shot-for-shot remake of Anaconda.
Reconcile the Abhrahamic religions
as equally ridiculous.

Dig up some golden tablets
on a hill in Western New York,

translate them with the help of a crystal.
Finally learn how to do my job.

Grow a long beard
and fashion artisanal complaints
five times as expensive as regular ones.

Finally read Harry Potter.
Build a “star gate” out of used cereal boxes
and visit Illinois.

Publish a goddamned poem.

Learn to whistle two melodies at once.
Also learn to whistle.
Get a life; get another.

Win the National Book Award
for Twitter.

Idea: colder fusion. Reach out
about that thing.
Forget

that everything, everywhere
is ending.
Forget again.

“Hey,” I say, proffering my tablet, “take a look at this.”

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Originally published in The Internet Review of 2016

My wife rolls her eyes. I know she is doing this without looking.

“Is that another cute animal GIF?”

(I don’t comment on her pronunciation of GIF, a sore topic which elicits much ridicule each way.)

“No, you really need to see this.”

We are in bed, with a copy of Mysteries of the Unexplained between us, serving as an impromptu coffee tray. I take a sip of my coffee.

I try again. “This otter is coming to solve your problems.”

She reaches over to point the tablet in her direction. She smiles. There can be no doubt. This otter really is coming to solve our problems. …

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Originally published in The Broad River Review Volume 49

The faux battlements
of the Kingdom Hall take on
a dramatic silhouette.
A tarp in a stiff wind
rippling, or some planks
dropped by workmen clap
together. Rain-wet concrete,
sawdust, and bits of nail.
The earth is bared
of green, and speckled
like a whale.

The great, fleshy tulip,
battered by the storm,
yellow petals each
big as your palm,
is just half a shattered
Snapple bottle,
cradled like your only
treasure on a tuft
of city weeds.

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First published in Big Muddy, Volume 16.2

The bride extrudes as from the stones
of the wall like buttercream frosting
dabbed from the confectioner’s steel-tooth nozzle
into a flower, or like a real flower
waking in layers
from the heavy weight
of an enfolding bud. We are
caught between her growing beauty
and the impassable end
of the long balcony that, unroofed,
caps a side of Siena’s unfinished
cathedral. It is so long ago,
the camera of the photographer
who precedes her walking backward
is large, like a black cathedral
in his hands, lofty, architectural.

Vera and I waver
at our distance, the bride’s
dress beating like a flag,
the groom a shadow
to her brilliance
like the deeply imperfect
suitors she lists that her age allows
(and I am, briefly, one).
I do not believe in poetry
then, but believe there
before we slip past the wedding party
that I could believe again,
then descend. …

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*

Originally published in Moon City Review 2017.

“Now, why don’t you collect yourself, and start again,” he says. He is looking at me over his reading glasses, with arched eyebrows, which sprout so luxuriously from his brow that I wonder if, somehow, he has been cultivating them to counterbalance the barrenness of his bald pate. He has been looking down at that little pad, you know, where he writes his notes — are they about my state of mind? The words seem to roll out from his pen onto the paper, longhand, in complete sentences, paragraphs. Is he writing a story about me, or recounting a dream, or writing his own name over and over again — I will never know. “Why do you think you felt like striking Mr. …

About

Benjamin Harnett

Historian, poet, digital engineer. Fiction at @mooncityreview, @longform, & @BklynQly. http://www.benjaminharnett.com

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