By Zachary Bos


Here at the waters’ edge the hands drop memory

- Hart Crane, “The Bridge”


Love is a matter of organization

- Ece Ayhan Çağlar, “Violet Rascal”


-for David Ferry


Where we paused to let another train pass

the calcareous patches of niter on the walls shone

visible like a grown contagion. The light bloomed

from bulbs strung on a double-braided wire;

the thick train soot gathered on every surface

reflected this light only dimly. The air was still.

A nausea of displacement came upon me then;

I could sense water seeping through the masonry,

depositing its candid stain on the damp surface

like a mollusk glazes itself with spit

hardening to precious nacre. The niter

gleamed like a crust of pearl in the unlit space.

The grime-covered bricks of the vaulted roof

repeated their muted pattern without gap.


Looking into the darkening distance, I recalled

the poet reading those lines about his father

in the afterworld—how his father reached out

as he approached the speechless ghost. I saw

in the darkening distance what I imagined

when I heard the poet read: the poet elderly,

and naked, heroic, wearing only a lion skin,

ready to carry the shade of his father seated

on the hide bunched across his gaunt shoulders,

the way Atlas bears the boulder of the world—

ready to bear him back across the Styx

and black Lethe and Ocean, back into the light,

a rescue no one has ever pulled off, even in myth,

a trick no one living can perform except in verse.


Buckling under the impossibility of returning

the beloved dead to life, the poet then wept

as he stood at the lectern, his shoulders slumped

in his tweed jacket, his head shaking loosely

at the end of the stalk of his body, dignified

and sorrowful in his black shirt. Out of his throat

came a cluster of ticking noises that I suppose were

the vowels and consonants of grief caught there

in a trap of mucus. I think his ripened eyes saw

the face of his father and his friends and his wife

receding into enveloping darkness as we watched

his lined face, dipping downward to his paper,

begin to break into sobs as his reading ended

and the auditorium broke into stunned applause.




Zachary Bos is editor of The New England Review of Booksnerobooks.org, and publisher of Pen & Anvil Press. An alumnus of the graduate poetry workshops at Boston University, his work as a writer and translator has appeared in Fulcrum, The Christian Science Monitor, Elsewhere, Lotus-Eater, The Battersea Review, Fallujah, Public Pool, Written River, Unbroken Journal, and elsewhere. He can be found on Twitter as @zakbos.