Three from “Exercise Book” / Adam Kosan


An ancient night, full of restless dreams. There’s still smoke on my face when the day’s outraged brightness comes through the windows, and I discover myself, a creature of letters and visions, like a wounded animal in bed, dazed and looking up —and I looking down on it from the ceiling, startled by this bed creature’s weakness and fervor, and where do you go, Rimbaud? You’re running away from these words out of the poem? Where are you and the steeled little fiend against justice? The blood-smoked face and ancestral eyes? Running ahead out of the poem. Everything is a flying thing. Look, even that frog of a tombstone twitches up at your arrival.


I woke up under just a handwidth of ground, and could feel the surface world not too high off, and flowers growing out of my eyes were little dark suns—eclipsed suns of a dying sky—but to me they were still two circles of life-giving faraway warmth, two points in the direction toward which I should aim myself, and all across my immobile body there was an obscure sense of levitation, be patient! it said, with a kind of choked laughter, there was heavy moss everywhere, but somehow in the center of things I was as light as the aboveground sky and still saw clearly beyond my situation.


These be the hands of the living dead, the well-appointed hands of the living dead, worth a million. Waving reflections of stones and bands inches below cuticles, in gray afternoon light, little ships’ lights pushing embarrassed aggressiveness through mist. And the distance of eyes above those rings! Graves of stars, where a child god has very earnestly and tenderly patted in the sand, leaving holes in the center out of which a physical memory of old time glows.

Adam Kosan’s writing has been published in The Fortnightly Review, Chicago Review, Prelude, and The Quarterly Conversation. He’s directed a live performance of Christopher Logue’s All Day Permanent Red and an opera, Productions of Time, for which he also wrote the libretto.

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