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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, April 29, 2016.
About this Poem 

“I’ve become interested in the many ways, in poetry, that exterior landscapes can be made to respond to interior ones. My next book, How He Loved Them, is about that—the way a complex feeling (here, love) can occupy a version of our shared history and physical surroundings.”
—Kevin Prufer

After You Have Vanished

The little red jewel in the bottom of your wineglass
is so lovely I cannot rinse it out,

so I go into the cool and grassy air to smoke. 
Which is your warmly lit house

past which no soldiers march to take the country back?
When you reached across the table to touch my hand

is not attainable. I cannot recapture it.

And no gunners lean on their artillery at the city’s edge,
looking our direction,

having shot the sky full of bright holes. 

The light bleeds from them
and it always will. 

Long ago, they captured our city
and now they are our neighbors,

going about their business like they were
one of us.

Soon, like you, they will be asleep,
having washed the dishes and turned out the kitchen lights.

When I inhale, smoke occupies me. 
When I exhale—

By morning the wine in the bottom of your glass
will have clotted.

I’m sorry I called it a jewel.
It is not the soldiers who have shot me full of holes.

It is not light that pours out.
Love did this.

I was filled with wine.
Now I am drained of it. 

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin Prufer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Kevin Prufer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 29, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Kevin Prufer

Kevin Prufer

Kevin Prufer is the author of six books of poetry, most recently How He Loved Them (Four Way Books, 2018) and Churches (Four Way Books, 2014). He teaches at the University of Houston and lives in Houston, Texas.

by this poet

poem
The old cat was dying in the bushes.
Its breaths came slow, slow, 
                                          and still
it looked out over the sweetness of the back lawn,
the swaying of tall grass in the hot wind,
the way sunlight warmed the garbage can's 
sparkling lid.  
                   It closed its hot
poem
They wanted him to stop kicking like that—
it made their eyes corkscrew, drilled the sun in the sky
so light dumped out like blood from a leak.
The boy in the trunk wouldn't die.

They drove and drove, and he dented the trunk's tight lid,
called their names, then pounded the wheel wells
with a tire iron. The sun
poem
The black Mercedes
with the Ayn Rand 
vanity plate
crashed through 
the glass bus stop
and came to rest 
among a bakery’s 
upturned tables.
In the stunned silence,  
fat pigeons descended 
to the wreckage
and pecked at 
the scattered
bread and cake.
The driver slept,
head to the wheel.
The pigeons grew
rich with