Three Poems

by Peter Lopatin (March 2020)


Harbor at Trieste, Egon Shiele, 1907




Recollection of an Afternoon Storm


As it was when I

saw it then,

gathering itself fast

over the fine seascape

late in the day

after the sun had

given its best and

then begun its slow decline,


            (I remember how I

            expected then

            to recall it now,

            seeing it as it gathered

            in the dimness,

            playing itself out

            over the blackening bay)


so we—who, in remembering,

are no longer one—

try to say now what we were then

and what it means to be,

and gather ourselves—

conjuring ourselves out of some

sweet confection of memory and

damp air—then decline too, 

nourished, just enough, as we fade,

passing too swiftly by this bay,

yet grand and fair.




Skipping Stones


They come to nothing in the end,

no less so than those artlessly thrown.


The difference is in the show they make

before they go. You need the right raw material though:


flat and true but with heft enough to slice the water

when it hits. Water has the density of life and demands


that you persist and come up for air,

if only to cut a smaller slice and fall again


before you thought you would. There. Now you have it.

Search for more and fling them side-arm with


backspin snap and smooth authority. Wow the idle

sunbathers to their core with two-digit skips through


breezy chop. Saunter off with nonchalance and

leave them wanting more. You’ve had the better of this day.


Perhaps you’ll have another one, when the stones

slice clean and play the water well before they drop.




The Eternal Present


No wind on the lake


            as there was before,


                        when sails sighed with fullness



and the water bore the boat’s weight


            as if passing it hand over


                        liquid hand.  No more. 



Becalmed close to a shore


            which is not my destination,


                        but another’s, I note the hour



and consider whether,


            paddling with a single oar,


                        the better choice is to



point the bow there and


            camp ‘til morning or to keep


                        my heading true and wait for wind.



Then, hesitating there, I see


            the lake and hills as if


                        the scene were frozen vitreous,


painted like an antique Chinese lamp


            from my youth, wondering


                        how it would be to be the one



depicted there,


            glazed with indecision,


                        feeling myself



both agent and object,


            moving slowly, always,


                        always frozen fast.




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Peter Lopatin was born and raised in New York where he earned his JD degree and practiced corporate law for thirty years. Along the way, he studied philosophy as a graduate student at the New School for Social Research. After retiring from his legal practice, he obtained a Certificate from the New School in teaching English as a Second Language and has been an ESL teacher since then. He has taught at the University of Connecticut/Stamford, Norwalk Community College, Manhattanville College and, most recently, at the Stamford English Language Academy. Peter’s short stories and book reviews have appeared in Commentary, The Weekly Standard, The New Atlantis, and New English Review. His poetry has appeared in New Millennium Writings and Poetry East.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast



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