PAUL GUEST's first book, The Resurrection of the Body and the Ruin of the World, won the 2002 New Issues   Poetry Prize. His poems appear in Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Verse, Lyric, West Branch and elsewhere.

The plot hole by which you must enter in
to the story is a doozy, a real humdinger,
if you will, and it is all made of fire,
the way the stars are made of fire,
though we dream them to be utterly cold
and prickly with a sad light. Nothing
ever stops in my world to hear me
singing to you. I have always loved you,
sweet twin, beloved doppelgänger,
alien lump of word in my mouth,
language I spent three years learning
only to forget when it grew too hard
the phrases that meant something:
Dear, I am your long lost butter cookie;
and, I am sorry, it was accidental,
but I have dipped the poodle in laudanum.
Let us do away with digression
for the night, though to me
it has always seemed the heart’s core,
and think on our motivation
for the lines to follow:
the suddenness of our sorrow is shocking
and the day is hollowed out
and here at this moment,
this crucial hinge of the breaking heart,
I think of the day years ago
when I was a boy and came upon my uncle,
a fish’s tail clamped in his teeth,
tearing the skin from the fish with such force
I could hear it —
and I felt so strange and empty
I have never spoken of it
to anyone, or let myself on a day
whole with sun think of it.
What he was doing, and why,
I never asked; there is never
an answer large enough for a world
so huge with meanness.
And I was pulled from myself
but couldn’t feel a thing,
and this is your motivation,
mirrored self, speaking back
the words I make wrongly,
lifting the heavy, crude lot of anything
I can’t. You must know me
exactly, apart from yourself,
to give back to the world what I can’t.
You must know the angles
of light so well the shadows
will accept you like a brother.
You must not choke back my breath
when the ashes on the wind
blind even the birds in the trees.

Paul Guest

           on hearing of efforts to declassify Pluto as a planet

Little star, how lost to us you are already
and more to become, so small

that we here, distant and large and not ice
only, would demote you

to bobbin status, unplanet, chink of light
in a sky of major and minor

fire. For all your long orbit, who here cares:
some nights I try my heart at it

but little happens. The trees hoard a music
in them that must be locusts

aching to mate, to make more,
even to die. Clouds scuff the scarred moon

until it’s easy to forget you —
to think of water clotted

with green, where once I read Neruda
and Ovid distracted not by light

skipping off the scalloped lake
but by the memory of lace and sheer and bra —

by whom I loved. In that moment,
and in this one, I could not be

more human, to the dead sky
making apologies heard by no one, by nothing.

Paul Guest