Françoise Grossen, “Five Rivers” (1974), dyed manila (photo by Benjamin Sutton)

In the Time of Discernment

Your hair roams the room while you sleep
Loud as a vineyard
Disquisitioning on the color of rope
The first epic of blood
The sound of a hymnal closing
In a city of brief peace
My posture goes undetected
Be gentle with me
The low drug of your hair
Keeps the hour company
I watch a silence form
My fears begin to ordain themselves


No, not the regulatory cousin,
The season’s snap in the fist of the branch
Get a hold of yourself: someone is in love with you
In the other room you don’t think you have
The keys to. Don’t think.

Where a heartbeat is the fruit of sound
We call brisk grace, your heretofore.
Wait and wait to see your friends
Become loose shapes at the edge of a haptic choir.

This is a ballad; I am a nocturne
Approaching the unit of landing
Is it landing, or.
Or else.

The wise one isn’t speech.
The wise one doesn’t ask have you ever been afraid. Knows better.
The better wise one is a muscle
Halfway across the back you can’t reach

Or haven’t tried yet. So you’ll never.
Everyone wants to unearth the cold fabric.
Some have a coffee some have a name.
In the end who ever knows what time it was.

* * *

Jay Deshpande is the author of Love the Stranger and The Rest of the Body (both from YesYes Books). Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, AGNI, Denver Quarterly, Narrative, and elsewhere. He is a winner of the Scotti Merrill Award, has received fellowships from Kundiman and Civitella Ranieri, and is currently a Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University.

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