Jeff Encke

The Water in Which One Drowns Is Always an Ocean

 

It is the calm and silence that drown us.

Some people can disturb words
with a mere movement of the teeth.

The pouch of the mouth strewn with roses
…………………………..roofed with lost causes.

Pumpkins and habits have a smell
and breath is its beginning.

The womb carries on its shoulders
a beggar wrapped in earth.

……..Absence washes
away love, taking the tint of all colors.

…………………..From the well of envy
the child teaches us to weep.

………….Every sickness has its herb.

Heaven is dark, yet quiet and limpid.
Shovels of earth cannot quench a mountain.

Scum rises to the top of the heart.

………………………..A bubble on the ocean
a taste the teetotaler will never know.

Do not pour on the strength of a mirage.
Do not torture thirst with shallow water.

A merchant in the rain saves only himself.
A shadow that always follows the body.

When your cheeks beg for fever
……………….you are halfway there.

Habit is the shirt we wear for a midday nap.

Gray hairs its blossoms.

Hope a pearl worthless in its shell.

Death answers: I have a lot to say
.………………….but my mouth is full.

Those destined to drown
…………will drown in a spoonful.

The tears of strangers are only water.

 

“The Water in Which One Drowns Is Always an Ocean” is reprinted from Starting Today: 100 Poems for Obama’s First 100 Days.

 

Jeff Encke taught writing and criticism at Columbia University for several years, serving as writer-in-residence for the Program in Narrative Medicine while completing his PhD in English in 2002. He now teaches at Richard Hugo House. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Boston Review, Colorado Review, Fence, Kenyon Review Online, Salt Hill, and Tarpaulin Sky. In 2004, he published Most Wanted: A Gamble in Verse, a series of love poems addressed to Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi war criminals printed on a deck of playing cards. For the past six years, Jeff has hosted a biweekly social group of poets, journalists, translators, playwrights, and other writers. The group currently alternates Sundays afternoons between Brouwer’s in Fremont and The Pine Box on Capitol Hill (for more information, or to add yourself to the mailing list, visit the Seattle Poets Gathering blog).


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