Brendan Dempsey – Your Shoulder

The clouds break, the leaves break, and I can see,

The moon, skeletal white, but full of arms,

Embracing night’s dark coat, so tenderly

Lover-like. And in the alcove of my palm

Sits one plum heart to beat and beat and beat

The tired drum of world-weariness.

Where is some poem or sweet religion neat

Enough to beat the mortal fear in us?

Where Sinai’s Saturn crooks his fallen back,

A beam of milk-light traces autumn’s boughs

Beneath this hollow and oppressive black

Night canopy: a firmament knocked down,

A castle crumpled into stars who know

No master, no Creator’s laws, no name

That gives them name, save sky-gazers below.

And as for songs or poems—those picture frames

That capture ether-like emotion in

A row of broken rectangles, the way

Some summer evening’s careless children pin

A prisoned palm of fireflies—they say

Never word or world enough to get at

All of this expansive night, this night, this

Wide, autumnal, purgatory night, that

Globes its grip around the earth, limitless,

And has no ears to hear my whispers, called

With all the heart and fierce intensity

Of Pyramus’ longing—to a wall.

But there are nights that grow so tenderly

Lover-like, when through that void, that fissure

In the barricade, a light pierces me

From just beyond, and I watch the picture:

The clouds break, the leaves break, and I can see

The moon of your soft shoulder peeking through

The night of some old sweater. Oh what want!

And yet’s enough fulfillment in its naked hue

To persevere the hunger, give me haunt

At least another night beneath that mocking orb

That holds me rapt. It is another gloom,

Whose brightness I can never full absorb,

But neither will I ever touch the moon.

Born and raised in Vermont, BRENDAN DEMPSEY is finishing his last semester at the University of Vermont, where he has been studying Classics and Religion. His poetry has been published in the Barn Owl Poetry Extra and Vantage Point, and he is currently at work planning his magnum opus: an epic poem in Miltonic verse which will be published sometime in the next 30 years.

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