Time is a fire as tired as a tunnel and as tired
as a verb. Doris feels filled at night with
a bitter mustard. She has given and got as hard
as the rest, a princess of chafe, a sorcerer
of sore and apprentice to fault. She has winked
while the moon rolled its sour eye.
Damn it, she wants hope like everyone else does,
to peek corners, dream calls. She’s ticklish with want.
But at night she is filled with a bitter juice that goes
through her like a cold silver pole, a high silver wind.
It is keen, and she is keen on it. It’s gulped down her tubes
like a vinegar joke. Wasting goes through, hurt does,
All along her outsides, time is a fire, a lonely light
spent so fast it makes her sick. The watch
kept on cutting time
with its little saw,
Neruda said. I know the skin of the earth
and I know it has no name,
Neruda said. And Ravikovich:
This too will be a part that gets farther
and farther away.
Gretchen Primack is the author of Visiting Days (Willow Books Editors Select Series 2019), set in a maximum-security men’s prison, as well as two other poetry collections: Kind (Post-Traumatic Press), which explores the dynamic between humans and (other) animals, and Doris’ Red Spaces (Mayapple Press). She also co-wrote, with Jenny Brown, The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals (Penguin Avery). Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, and other journals. Primack has administrated and taught with college programs and poetry workshops in prison for many years, and she moonlights at an indie bookstore in Woodstock, NY.