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Man on a Sofa

By Lee Sharkey

--for Henry Braun

A man is lying on a sofa.

The man has been reading.

He has laid down the book beside him.

The man's form is waiting to be occupied.

Give him a name, Henry, say; look how the form fills in,

as if you could read, in Henry's limbs,

in Henry's countenance,

Henry's dreams dancing in his head.

The book by his side is Henry's companion.

The book beside Henry is writing itself as we speak.


Meanwhile, a night-dark form in the shape of a man has occupied the sofa.

Somehow it has taken the place of the man,

the man we call Henry.

Pick up the book the absence of Henry was reading.

The book is night-dark and brilliant.

The book is writing itself as we read.

Maybe, the book says, Henry has gone for a walk in the woods

and found a small patch of small green lilies.

Maybe, the book says, Henry has set off the New World with his backpack.

The absence of Henry stirs in its sleep.

Added: Thursday, April 30, 2015  /  Used with permission.
Lee Sharkey
Photo by Al Bersbach.

Lee Sharkey is the author of Walking Backwards (Tupelo, 2016), Calendars of Fire (Tupelo, 2013), A Darker, Sweeter String (Off the Grid, 2008), and eight earlier full-length poetry collections and chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Massachusetts Review, Crazyhorse, FIELD, Kenyon Review, Nimrod, Pleiades, Seattle Review, and other journals. She is the recipient of the Abraham Sutzkever Centennial Translation Prize, the Maine Arts Commission’s Fellowship in Literary Arts, the RHINO Editor’s Prize, the Shadowgraph Poetry Prize, and Zone 3’s Rainmaker Award in Poetry. Lee lives in Maine, where she teaches a writing workshop for adults recovering from mental illness and serves as the Senior Editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal, which published chapbooks of the work of Split This Rock poets for the first and third Split This Rock festivals. Please visit her website

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