Parable of the Dictionary

& all night the sky kept faith with us

& shut away from that glory in a box

& unhinged from movement

& pinned by fabric and gravity

& these dream-soaked hibernations

& the constellations drifted to the west

& we dreamt each other in our separate beds hidden from the stars

& hidden from each other

& this is the definition of longing

& we are victims in our dreams

& startled by falling

& the sky waited patiently for our recovery

& the winter snowed like all the fallen stars

& the bats woke up stumbled out of their winter caves

& their wings shredded in the wind like joss paper boats

& bones as fine as pine needles

& nothing to eat but stars nothing but snow

& the bats died in the terrible nights between us

& this is the definition of despair

& we rose into our respective days

& put away our dreams

& kept our distances kept to our spinning orbits

& we fell through our own slow breathing

& back into dreams

& the bats kept dying

& the scientists picked tiny white bones from their soles

& tried to save what they could

& that is the definition of living


Leslie Harrison’s second book, The Book of Endings (Akron, 2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her first book, Displacement (Mariner 2009) won the Bakeless Prize in poetry. Recent poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Kenyon Review, New England Review, West Branch and elsewhere. She lives and writes in Baltimore.