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Stephen Cramer

Thunderous


The sound of a tree

growing in fast forward—


a hundred

years in thirty

seconds—is a brief


recital of rasp

& squeak & groan,

the sound of sheath

after added sheath.

It sounds like ice


breaking up

in the spring. It sounds


like an avalanche. Try

to hear the same

of the entire woods,


then of the continent,

then of the world.


Try to be deafened

by life. I want

to be able to hear


in thirty seconds

all the decades


of my own heart

beating, a rattle

that grows louder

then quickly subsides.

I want to hear


the sprouting

of leaves in the spring,

their crackling

in the fall, all of it

so thunderous


you can’t distinguish

the loss

of any one thing.



Breath


My breath swirling

the room like

a pollen-drunk bee,


I let the air

slip out

in as slow


a stream as possible,

because that helps

me understand


strength. I’ve yelled

& slammed my fist

in my palm,


so I already know

what weakness is.

You can spend


all afternoon

trying to figure out

what version of collapse


wants you more

than all the others.

Let us learn


the way cries

inherit our breath,

the way 1,000


facets of song

can inhabit

the mouth.



Ledger


This body is a container

for a certain number

of breaths, a certain


number of kisses.

The horizon of your skin

makes gravity a myth,


releases every trace

of music stored

in my muscles.


One day all my thoughts

will narrow to those

I had in the womb,


the world’s vast

nomenclature stripped

down to basic


human need.

I know it’s probably

written on air, but


somewhere there’s a ledger

that tells us

how much of our breath


we’ve given to dispute,

how much to song.

Remind me again


how not to be

a howl on a string.

 

Stephen Cramer’s first book of poems, Shiva’s Drum, was selected for the National Poetry Series and published by University of Illinois Press. Bone Music, his sixth, won the Louise Bogan Award. His most recent is The Disintegration Loops, which was a finalist for the Vermont Book Award. He is also the editor of Turn It Up! Music in Poetry from Jazz to Hip-Hop. Cramer’s work has appeared in journals such as The American Poetry Review, African American Review, The Yale Review, and Harvard Review. An assistant poetry editor at Green Mountains Review, he teaches writing and literature at the University of Vermont and lives with his wife and daughter in Burlington.





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