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.


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.

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