As a ghost might gaze upon the one he loves: three poems by Brian Turner

Like Lamplight

One day when you are beside me
invite me to speak
of the secrets I never knew
I wanted to tell you, of the warmth
I never knew I owned
until you released it
by moving close as lamplight seems
to glass. Ask me

why I came to you
with the reverence of one
who sees a flower bloom
where none has bloomed before.
By saying what is
I will have said what was.

Sometimes when you are content
ask me what it is
that moves me to want to hold you so,
so often, and laugh when I tell
you the same old
indestructible thing.

One day when you are
where you need no invitation to be
I will tell you
how you flower
like lamplight in me.


Observation Post #798

It is in the watches of the night
that impressions are strongest
and words most eloquent.
—Qur’an 73:1

Tonight, we overwatch the Market District
by the ruins, where we know of a brothel-house:
green light above the door, windows shuttered
in French panels swung open, gauze curtains
hanging translucent in the heat.

It’s over a hundred degrees, even at dusk.
I scan each story with binoculars
and a smile, hoping to glimpse the girls
drawing open the curtains,
their silhouettes edged in light.

When a woman walks out onto the rooftop
smoking a cigarette and shaking loose her long hair,
everyone wants what I hold in my hands,
but I am stilled by her, transported 7,600 miles
away, as a ghost might gaze upon the one he loves,

thinking, how lovely you are,
your pain and beauty a fiction
I bend into the form of a bridge, anything
to remind me I am still alive.


R & R

The curve of her hip where I’d lay my head,
that’s what I’m thinking of now, her fingers
gone slow through my hair on a blue day
ten thousand miles off in the future somewhere,
where the beer is so cold it sweats in your hand,
cool as her kissing you with crushed ice,
her tongue wet with blackberry and melon.

That’s what I’m thinking of now.
Because I’m all out of adrenaline,
all out of smoking incendiaries.

Somewhere deep in the landscape of the brain,
under the skull’s blue curving dome—
that’s where I am now, swaying
in a hammock by the water’s edge
as soldiers laugh and play volleyball
just down the beach, while others tan
and talk with the nurses who bring pills
to help them sleep. And if this is crazy,
then let this be my sanatorium,
let the doctors walk among us here
marking their charts as they will.

I have a lover with hair that falls
like autumn leaves on my skin.
Water that rolls in smooth and cool
as anesthesia. Birds that carry
all my bullets into the barrel of the sun.

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As a ghost might gaze upon the one he loves: three poems by Brian Turner

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