Two Poems


by Peter Lopatin (July 2020)


Mountain Landscape, Emil Nolde





Tell me only what you see, without

interpretation. Can you do it?

Look, there, where meadow

angles down to creek, and

the greenery becomes

the kind that likes wet ground.

Go there for me while the

light still falls just as you see it

on the willow’s hanging, western

arms. Go there, and tell me only

what you see.


Or, if it suits you best, go, some

late October afternoon, to the city’s

northern edge where a road you’ve never

seen decays to gravel. Allow your eyes their

liberty and see tire-ruts filled with water like

a ship’s bilge, tinged with

gasoline rainbows from passing cars. 


But if you’re strong enough, you can

stay in place and release your eyes

from their accumulated obligations,

and in that state, I’m told, if you see

one face and give no thought to thought,

you’ll see every face that has ever been

or can ever be. 


If I could see all this myself, I would.

But my sight is bound to

darker things, to ghosts and

their interpretations,

bastard children of thought and sense,

the oldest consummation.


So, go now in my stead and see

what’s there, in all these places.

But promise me you won’t explain:

just tell me, and then—as if there too—

I’ll see it all and know it with you.



Marking Time


There was no purpose in the air today,

no steel tempering in an ardent fire,

no billowed sails, no desperate play.


No jumper plunged from the sky today,

tearing at the ripcord of desire,

feeling that he must fall away


and trust in uncanny threads of silk,

or die enlivened by his brazen plunge.

There were no heroes of that ilk.


No one dared that brave descent.

The day declined its chance at glory

and would not accept what it was sent.


Instead of fire from the grinding wheel,

I saw blank eyes stare back at me

and then remembered what I wished to feel:


The unnoticed interstices of sense,

the intervals in which we question time

and each of its thousand cords relents.


But there remains the promise of another day.

(It will come; it was here before.)

I saw it once, though when, I cannot say.


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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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