He sits me across the table, has me fold my hands in my lap. “You can look but you can’t touch,” and slides a box between us. It sits open, unclasped, and he pushes it pushes it towards me. “This,” he says, “is how you write a poem.”

(lately, we’ve been having a problem
and all these people are turning up dead.
tides are washing ashore and pulling back sand
and in between far-off blades of grass
we’ve found bodies.
with nowhere to lay them
we bring them to the beach.)

I lean over and peer into the box. There isn’t much inside, but, it seems infinite. Dirty coils of spring and watchpieces, old stamps and ice cream napkins. Everything anyone has ever lost, ever touched, ever experienced, tucked away in a jumble, lost in a black laquer box.

(there is something about the faces of people we’ve never met
but now,
know so much about.
their family, the children they left behind.
what happens when we all start to dream
of places we’ve once been and only find wreckage?
what happens when we are left to stack bodies atop bodies,
lives on top of lives?
what happens when we can no longer see the ocean?)

I look up from the box and into his eyes. He stares me down for a long while. “When you sit to write a poem, you reach into that box and time flows fowards, flows backwards. You pull out what you need and tell a story.” He pauses. “A poem is a story told in parts, in moments, in scraps. Reach in. Dig deep.”

(all the rest of us can only hold hands
and keep our chests steady against the sobs inside.
standing together on tippy-toes,
straining against what we see, what we know.
lately it has been
one after the other,
one after the other,
one after the other
and we wipe our tears away
with the bloody rags they leave behind.)

“Can I now?” I ask and he nods. I dip my hand into the box that seems so shallow but goes on forever and when I pull my closed fist back up. All that is in my palm is sand.

Leave a comment


  1. How are you so brilliant ALL THE TIME. It must be exhausting.

  2. A nice parable of stories and where they come from and what they mean to us! Interesting prose poem structure and images.

    Congratulations on the writing and submission! :)

  3. This is a fantastic journey of mind. And the end is magnificent! “All that is in my palm is sand.” Beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

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