Two Poems by Sean Burke for Haunted Passages

Haunted Passages: Sean Burke

The Moon Lays Down a No Trick Hand

When father left office a rag of colts followed 
on their hind legs. It was the damnedest thing.
All that year, Ms. Jansen’s calves were born
without bodies. Their heads—strange, unwieldy cabbages— 
sang ecstatically in the fields. The teens
that always plagued the Cinemagic parking lot 
(and gave the cops a world of trouble) fled 
to the hills, sleeping curled like loose fists
while laze-about tulips and snapdragons 
pricked up in occult reds. The dead rose at dusk 
each dusk, drove into the city and hit the clubs, 
pockets stuffed with wads of shrunken eyes, spending like hell 
was but a hot minute away. Once the soccer moms 
turned full-on orgiastic, the PTA disbanded. At night, 
parents spoke arcane oaths at children’s bedsides, 
mouths hardened at the edges with interminable ecstasy, 
then stole out their windows to the moon-soaked woods, 
tracing their hands on deer’s narrow faces. 
The deer became cyphers the trees understood. 
Before too long, the whole woods broke.
It was something father never quite got— 
how the world could change on a whim
and our desires become some grand caravansary— 
but still he took real pride in his part
in ushering in the spangled new era.

The Mystic Has a Head Cold

Name a cloud and it will follow.
Moons, when called upon, collapse.
Blondes confused for false mallow set a pond aflame.
Remain cautious of those who infantilize the weather.
Know your every thought will be confirmed,
your every desire reversed, turned back on its heels
as the last police blotter’s etched in stone.
All your friends will die and be reborn.
There is no harm in standing idly by
as the tides dismantle into gnawed-on flowers and pistons.
No harm in laying your head between the wars.
Before you had ears, you had bells and a sadness the size of a man.
Any sound breaks the animal into its constituent spheres.
The horse turned inward adjusts the whole region.
“I’m a moose,” says the moose. “You’re a deer,” says the deer.
If you know you are going to die, pack something intangible to wear.
Spend your life trying to find the right suitcase.
Like Marcus Smart, his thousand eyes beaming around St. Hildegard,
let your vision make a passable emptiness, a sure-honed air.
Ignore the crowing desiridata.
Only a slow wit waits for the dead lake to call back a flown bird.
Sleep is better off without us.
A tired hand draws solace as a tiger’s jaw.
Attraction is impulse engendered.
Desire is attraction upturned.
Touch-dumb hands perceive the cloth as immaterial.
Midway to pasture will not wrangle half the calf.
At night, houses cry out in the insects’ brown hum
and it has absolutely nothing to do with us.
If meadows reverse, forget the wherefore.
Invention obscures the ape.
From the universe’s vantage, interiority is artifice.
Our heads float above us and do not know their names.
The panther’s ambuscade is an imposition of grace.
A child is a fugue state.
Turn a blind eye to the sylphic inversions of time.
At last and again, the world is let loose.

Sean Burke lives in South Berwick, Maine. His poems have appeared in Powder Keg, small po[r]tions, The Destroyer, past simple, and Jellyfish, among other journals.


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