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Of the Limited Amount of Touch Apportioned to Each

In the first days before we noticed and started
to protect ourselves in our homes small objects

began to cling to us pebbles leaves little animals
then we heard that some were injured in the streets

by flying pans garden tools nails that collided
with great velocity with any one still out and about

it is now impossible to drive a car or lie in a metal
bed since there is no way to extricate oneself from it

we had hoped this was only a temporary
geomagnetic excursion but it is now clear that it is

a cretaceous superchron of unknown dimensions
we can see cars with drivers magnetized to their

seats crying for help that is no longer available
babies are no longer born only very young children

are able to approach each other to an arm’s length
of distance before the two small bodies abruptly

swerve aside and apart each is driven back by
the hand of the one reaching out we are so far

apart that we only conceive of each others’ lifted
arms as signs hard to read across the distance

we lean toward each other and stand tilted for
hours our hands outstretched like those of beggars


Of the Limited Number of Deaths Apportioned to Each

                      . . . considering the thousand dores that lead to death [I]
                      doe thanke my God that we can die but once.
                                                                            Sir Thomas Browne

Although we have long assumed that each of us has
to have only one for some of us it is easy to lay

claim to it several times over by the accident of
birth or by the secret cryptograms of weather work

or war while for others it seems hard to come by it
lingers in wounds and disease and comes a little

at a time but otherwise we think we ought to be
grateful for the single ration of it in proportion to

the unlimited allowance of suffering that is daily
dispensed if we carry our death with us like

an unopened gift if we wait for an anniversary or
the celebration of an appropriate occasion to open

it anxious that it will be the right one since we seem
generally disappointed about its size (it is either too

large or too small) and most want to return it for
another one it is now known that we may have

an allocation of two or three deaths (though some
have as many as dozen and some have only one)

we often recklessly waste the first in a wholly
avoidable accident and then thinking that we

miraculously survived (which is nothing other than
having spent one’s first death) live our lives with

utmost prudence or fear only to find out at the end
when we are tired that we have one or two more left


Of the Disappearance of Size

In these days our bones shine through the body
like elongated fluorescent lamps and the skin
hangs on it like washed paper these are the signs
                                   then they insist they have
seen it all they will stubbornly continue to see us
for a while but without the illusion of grief it is
clear that we disappear every day
                                   right before everybody’s eyes
one cannot see it not because it always comes too
soon or unexpectedly but because death is tiny as
the sharp tip of a needle we will fit into it our size
has been taken


Little Fugue

They weighed the wind in scales made of the flight
of birds they weighed the flight of birds in scales

made of glass they measured the circumference
of the light in the glass with a compass made of

transparency they weighed the light in the scales
of the silences between women and men and

the silences in scales made of words and they used
the remainder of a silence to find happiness or

bitterness they found happiness and they weighed it
in scales made of lost time then they weighed lost

time in scales made of hands cupped to hold water
they walked to the end of a long river to weigh

the river in scales made of water they weighed
it by holding it up to a window and its light

and they weighed the light and measured
the circumference of the light in the glass
with a compass made of transparency  


Harold Schweizer is Professor of English at Bucknell University. His poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, New Orleans Review, Cincinnati Review, Ploughshares, Pleiades, Poetry International, and elsewhere. His newest book, On Waiting, was published in the philosophy series Thinking in Action by Routledge.