A Muse, by Reginald Shepherd

He winds through the party like wind, one of the just
who live alone in black and white, bewildered

by the eden of his body. (You, you talk like winter
rain.) He’s the meaning of almost-morning walking home

at five A.M., the difference a night makes
turning over into day, simple birds staking claims

on no sleep. Whatever they call those particular birds.
He’s the age of sensibility at seventeen, he isn’t worth

the time of afternoon it takes to write this down.
He’s the friend that lightning makes, raking

the naked tree, thunder that waits for weeks to arrive;
he’s the certainty of torrents in September, harvest time

and powerlines down for miles. He doesn’t even know
his name. In his body he’s one with air, white as a sky

rinsed with rain. It’s cold there, it’s hard to breathe,
and drowning is somewhere to be after a month of drought.

Drawing from Life, by Reginald Shepherd

Look: I am building absence
out of this room’s air, I’m reading suppositions into
summer’s script snarled on a varnished floor.
It looks like a man. That knot’s his hand
waving good-bye, that stippled stripe of grain’s
the stacked-up vertebrae of his turned back.
Small birds (sparrows or finches, or perhaps)
are cluttering the trees with blackened ornaments (burning
in the remnant light of August eight o’clock), and noises
I can’t hear. Chirring there, chittering. The window’s closed.

I am assembling a lack of sound
in this locked box, and dotting all the i’s
these floating motes present (my composition), I am not lonely
for the palpable world (midges I dap hands for
and kill), shivering into darkness underwater outside glass:
what’s left of light sinking from zero down to less,
cobalt down to zaffer, deeper to purple-black
where divers drown. The swimming landscape’s
all mistake (one world that shuts air into
my submerged terrarium), and I am luck.