Richard Jeffrey Newman
Richard Jeffrey Newman is the author of Words for What Those Men Have Done and The Silence of Men, as well as the translation, The Teller of Tales: Stories from Ferdowsi's Shahameh. Richard curates the First Tuesdays reading series in Jackson Heights, New York, and is on the Board of Newtown Literary. He's also Professor of English at Nassau Community College, where he recently stepped down to focus on his writing after a decade of service to his faculty union.
Just Beyond Your Reach
The prayer you say is neither seed nor plow,
nor is it rain to quench your soul’s old thirst.
The parched and blistered field your tongue is now
bespeaks the long neglect about to burst,
like rotten fruit thrown to chase from the stage
a comic leaving dead words at your feet;
and she, or maybe he, responds with rage,
shrinking the room until the single seat
that’s left is where you’re planted. Confront your god,
shimmering and luscious, there, his skin—
or is it hers?—a proffered gift, a prod
to every hunger you have called a sin.
Welcome each new taste; spread wide; bow low.
Lose yourself till loss is all you know.
This Sentence Is A Metaphor
For Bridge #20
Imagine hell unfenced,
yourself the unburned center
of all that burning,
every prayer you’ve ever said
undone line by line,
until the empty page
is all you have.
Enter there the path in you
that is only a path,
gather its shadows
into a dance,
that ends with love,
that keeps on moving
till love becomes the rhythm,
and you the fire, and the dance,
the life you’ve chosen
to make your loving possible.
You thought you had to be
the clench you’ve held
where none but you
could feel it.
Give yourself instead
to all that rises.
Fill that cloudless sky
Knees rooted in the bed on either side
of your belly, my body’s a stalk of wheat
bent in summer wind, a bamboo shoot
rising, an orchid, and then all at once a cloud
swelling, a swallow sculpting air, a freed
white dove. You pull me down, but you are hot
beneath me, and the gust that is my own heat
lifts me away: I’m not ready. Outside,
footsteps, voices. Two men. Giggling, we pull
the sheet around us till they pass, but if someone
does see, what will they have seen? A couple
making love. No. More than that: they will
have seen the coming of the rain; they will
have seen us bathe in it, and they will say Amen.
Just Beyond Your Reach / This Sentence Is A Metaphor
for Bridge #20: exclusive first publication by iamb
After Drought: The Silence of Men (CavanKerry Press)