Three Poems by Robert Balun

Poetry: Robert Balun

Self (American Continuum)

I wake up:

and my leg hurts
my achilles specifically
and I wonder if the body is finally eating itself

I drink old water
and can never catch up
it just keeps pouring

I switch and ask if this is the coffee
promised to us by the management
during the labor dispute

outside I smoke a compulsion
and litter that piece of breath
give that part of myself back to the ground
look for your pieces

and find it’s been years since
I’d seen you and you still had on
that army shirt
so we sat and talked about our wars
everything was a salvo
and simultaneous:

how is my missing son

I had to incorporate you

and I said fine dad

make you a thought and a motion

where are the caterpillars I sent

so we could talk again

they were supposed to keep you vibrant

like light switches

safe through the winter

and wiring connected

steady shipments of new (would-be) butterflies

I had to make lessons on the minor

timed perfectly so they’d blossom through

visions and how to find them inside

the papered-up peace—

the daily muck

a perception

how to make this place
an elysium if you’d like

(I let my body slander its shape
my limbs are yours
and we are made whole in that way

perched above
a billboard reads us
elija menos sodio
I know it is warning my health
but I don’t know what elija means
and I just keep repeating
elija elija
elija until it means anything
until it means an elysium if you’d like

until it means where
the parenthetical ends
and the interiority begins

until it answers—
when do I stop inhabiting you / when do I burst into ancient particles
when does this end

Self (Stasis)

we eat the god particle
and every second is
accessible inside
the wild lung
the breath of any
drug to feel normal
I always knew I
wanted to be a
memory but
am just the sound of
you behind you
trying to get
closer to
the center of heat
I don’t want to impose
but I will see you in
one hundred years
after this american
century of scurry
for now I will be
washed out on the lawn—
the laundry on the line
hung like prayer flags
me covered in sun

Versions of Now (Scientific Paganism)

I am always in the ether

always in the voluminous



each day curating

this personal museum

someplace big to sort through


with no maps

the fields are breathing


you know that I am here for the taking

it’s such a lovely excuse

to be nothing but distance


find me and dose me



hits of gravity


it’s easy to disappear


or there

I don’t remember


I remember:

you told me an incantation:


draw breath

cover us in noise

make it loud and worship

our lives forever

until we’ve had enough

until we fall through

our punctuated timeline

sprout flowers

bursting out

buried in ecstatic descent

and all your volume


falling into me

a memory of white noise

left to be filled with stories

each one flowering into sound

each one a version of self

asking to be



and with skin


I pour cuts in all my smoke—

an offering

sunk and spectral

all light and buried

like a piety


I sift through old coats

full of electrons

and technically

mostly empty space

I gather

all this sentiment



here your sediment

compressed and reconstructed

to matter


one particle at a time


a memorial


someone wanders by with wind on their cheeks and it is almost you

Robert Balun is an adjunct at The City College of New York, where he teaches creative writing and composition. His poems have appeared recently in Poor Claudia, Apogee, Cosmonauts Avenue, and others.  His chapbook, Self (Ceremony), is available from Finishing Line Press. He received his MFA from CCNY, where he was a recipient of the Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize for Poetry and the Teacher-Writer Award.


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