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  • Coughing, and: Grey Birds, and: Snail
  • Dan Gerber (bio)


Old men, in the two, long-familiar poems I’m rereading now, cough importantly in the alien night and then, again, cough full of reproach for the gentler world— wrote the thirty-something Rilke from his lonely exiles in Ronda and then, again, in Paris.

Importantly about, and reproachful of what, I’ve wondered since I first pondered these judgments in the twenty-something exile of my inexperience.

Now, as I wake in this foreign city where I know no one, to become again—so it seems— a Thing that will carry itself, I too cough importantly, yes, to begin a new day breathing and reproachful only of what would keep me from it. [End Page 25]

Grey Birds

When I glance out the window three grey birds fly through me and fade as dots in the gloomy June sky.

I’m one of them now— maybe all three.

Or are the four of us now someone I knew a long time ago, just becoming conscious of the fog?


Nothing ever leaves this universe. It is but transformed, said Ovid.

Sometimes too much meaning, real meaning, deep meaning . . .

As the fog lifts, the landscape loses its philosophy.

The man who draws the shell precisely is content,

while the poet circles to begin, he hopes, to experience its intimate shellness. [End Page 26]

What’s more abstract than this borrowed house we’re wearing?

Did you fail to recognize the gift because it required . . . everything?

Tiny eremite at play in the grass where God is proclaiming the present. [End Page 27]

Dan Gerber

Dan Gerber’s poems have been published or are accepted for publication in Poetry, The Nation, New Yorker, and Best American Poetry. His most recent book is A Primer on Parallel Lives (Copper Canyon P). His forthcoming book is Sailing through Cassiopeia (Copper Canyon P).



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pp. 25-27
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