Three Poems

Poetry / Eric Pankey

The Last Sunday in Lent

In Sunday school, a girl daydreams as she watches the wind outside the windows take the dark shape of pines. The girl considers the unsayable name of God. She, too, has such a name no one has spoken or dares speak. Sometimes it is sweet on her tongue like a hard candy. Sometimes it burns as an ember. She dips a slender paintbrush into a jar of water and writes, as no one watches, her secret name in water on the linoleum floor. The other children practice signing as they sing “This Little Light of Mine.” As she watches the name evaporate, the girl thinks, my light is not so little.


Escape the body for a while. Escape from the tired flesh, the façades of old movie sets left to ruin, the doorways and mirrors where shadows brood. Slip like a snake from your skin into an ever-new raw glare. Give in. Let the past and the eternal vie for significance. You are a blank page in a census book, the elegant straight line of a censor’s cross out, the senseless and the clandestine, a little frenzy of wind. Slip the snare of birth, the unruly moment of perception, the grids and systems of notation. Let others sleepwalk. Let others drag the grappling hook of memory. You are weightless. For you, displaced, there is no theory of weightlessness. You are the transit and the transport, the unaccounted-for anomaly, the ordinary pleasure of a slipknot as it slips. If you still had hands what friction, what fire you might rub up.


The water subsided. The clouds broke. Little would burn after the deluge. Fires sputtered and quenched themselves. Cows, goats, whole flocks of birds—unscavenged, bloated—cluttered the fields like scattered erratics. How quiet it was without the rain pelting the shoreless distance, without the constant company of thunder. I gleaned a message from randomness, called it the new covenant. With only a bundle of notebooks as a pillow, I lay my head down.

Eric Pankey is the author of many collections of poems. A new book, AUGURY, is due from Milkweed Editions in 2017. He is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University.