Eric Pankey ~ Four Poems


How to dis­tin­guish a trick
Of the eye
From wind in a chestnut

Or wak­ing from dream
Where boundaries
Dissolve and give way

The body strapped
To its shadow
Weighs no more

The alphanu­mer­i­cal
Values of letters
Do not make the name

Of God any more say-able
All knowl­edge is arcane
And thus prevents

Easy access
To the imma­nent beyond
It’s hard to get used to

As when detained
By a float­ing fleet­ing thought
You see the sun emerge

From the clouds
Like a dew-wet fox
From underbrush

And only now
Recollect the overcast
The gloomy humidity

The wind­ing road
Through tunnels
And forest

That left you here
Water eddies and rushes
And some unseen blossoming

Offers an unheard of
Without cloy

Sharp-edged cit­rus
Mixed with cold
Spray from the rapids

The riv­er continues
Like the thread of a story
Spun out

An ordi­nary story
Slips and lapses
Where you expect them

To look back
Who can­not look back
Is an act of revision

In the mountains
You think of the forces
Behind form

The build-up
The long wear­ing down
Scree clatter

The river­bank lined
With flat­ten oval
Palm-sized stones

The moun­tain unmoved
The moun­tain transient
In a sum­mer of rains

Rain like accusation
Daily rain the moun­tain sheds
And the riv­er conveys

A leg­i­ble ser­pen­tine script
Through what erodes
Around what remains


When one writes, The silky plumage of a crow’s extend­ed wing, no corvid flies forth. No mul­ber­ry trees emerge from val­ley fog. Perhaps all is qui­et in the cocoon­ery. From here, it is hard to hear the rus­tle of fibers pulled long, the hot air vent­ed. As the crys­tal sug­gests the endur­ing pat­tern of its atoms, in these words, one hopes to sug­gest a shape. Not a rook or mag­pie, not a jack­daw or jay, but a crow.


We were still learning
The spirit’s language
To sense the spartan

Negative space between objects
To nav­i­gate the fragile
Edge of phenomena

As one does in a dance
The prac­tice continues
Although the music’s stopped

The musi­cian on break
Or gone for the day
Something of the dance

Is not contained
In the nota­tions or the count
The some­thing with­in a body

We might call the self
The spir­it under­stood this
Before we did

In the ges­tures and contortions
The gaps and silences
Of its language


What you said
Returned echoed

The fog stood still
The moun­tain moved


Eric Pankey is the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University. His recent books have been pub­lished by Milkweed Editions.