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Poetry: Steve Dew


Last Updated: 08/13/2013 3:29 pm
Steve Dew’s work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, the Berkeley Poetry Review, and the New York Times. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars where he studied with Elizabeth Spires and Peter Sacks. He lives and works in Williamstown, Massachusetts.


Behind your new house (“Tajma Hall” in honor
of a neighbor’s dig) we caught the gibbous day-moon
mustering its lumens, eyeing night
past Sankaty
The island leaned one crumbling
shoulder to the sea as intermittent twos
and threes of starlings fell from a high wire.
I watched those dark drops quicken and conspire
in an ovoid which draped the maple tree
where autumn trembled early in the roots.

Our hunt for ice and tonic ends, of course,
in gin, straight up from plastic cups. We miss
our reservation at The Brotherhood,
our table near the fire. You say it’s just as well.

The birds that starred the yellow maple black
with shuffling constellations, fidget, preen
their points in million-tongued committees, and move
to fly. The moon’s a timid celebrant;
your lips the plinth, your brow the crinkled lintel
of your face. I ponder the orthography,
the fragment lines of beating wings,
that shift and spell the logic of desire.


Go ruminate in your brown study, scholar.
Cowed prodigy, brew coffee. Bend to your copy-
work, underline in pencil. Sip, penitential.
Blind-weary hunter, force hammers to the twinned,
chambered shells. Your oiled intelligence—
springs, latches, pins—cracks two gold owl eyes dark.

Where Hadrian reclined at Tivoli,
marble piled up, arches put feet down plumb,
and columns, hefting friezes, zoned the shifting
brilliance of the sun. You note the disposition
of the ruin, the dimensions of a toppled block
where chiseled oxen low, yoked at altar.


Let words be beads, and I’m a double-pearl.
If I am spoil, then quibbling kings unfurl
their battle flags for me. Still at a loss?
I’m how the likened stone acquires gloss.


The iron sword has done
its work of just revenge,
and Ilium has binged
on spear-spilled blood and bone.
In spite of the god and his sea,
the towers of Priam have burned.
Ulysses has returned
to Ithaka, Penelope.
The queen already rests
her bright head on the chest
of her king. Is this the same
man who wandered, a stray
dog, howling through the gray
fog: No One is my name?
—Jorge Luis Borges
translated by Steve Dew


On Hatteras they fish with several poles
at once. We watched a fisherman plant six
before his truck and hook the churning sea.

Stooping to the surf,
they bend to lift the sky’s pellucid roof
of air on necks and shoulders infinitely slight;

Six lines, all infinitely long and tight,
directed, vigilant, to the horizon:
unbidden miracle of blue on blue.

Behind my flapping flags and shrouds, I tried
to sound you out, to map your bars and shallows,
your heart’s inscrutable topography.

We did our hot-foot shuffle down the beach,
(The sea played ‘Piper’s Cry and Tug o’ Moon)
making for The Reach, its staid light

(now obsolete) and scattering of dunes.
That’s where I burnt my offering for you.
You said, “Let’s walk,” and, past the stooping poles

we found a porpoise with its crown of flies,
expanding slowly in the sun (would it burst?),
and a chrome-crowned icebox door that lay half-sunk

in the sand—enough so that it seemed, at first,
it might reveal a store of lettuce leaves
or ketchup bottles huddled on the floor:

the desolate shrimp cocktail of your heart.

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