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Sample Poems by Constantine Contogenis

Zeno’s Arrow

I sail when I can, which is not an hour a week
but a day a year.  It’s plenty, really.  
The days come quickly, and most every year
I make way against the wind.  The masthead
tenses, sketches lines as high as I can see
but never flies.  The boat keeps to water,
comes about to face the wind.

Just because I return to where I leave
doesn’t mean I contradict the wind.  
I don’t believe it takes offense.  We both obey
arbitrary laws.  When tacking we try
to keep the sail between us but — each time
it seems unnatural — the wind
can’t help coming over to my side.


My father lying on a raised bed,     
dressed, impatient, a knife-man presides
knowing the way through skin and ribs, how     
to stop blood and pour it back, listens
to him ask and refuses, knowing
others who have more time to offer.

Old river emptying, mouth silting,
widening blood shallows overflowing,
my father is speaking from the heart.

A child, I asked my father to stay
one minute longer before he had
to leave for work.  I knew that he could
not refuse me and would anyway.  
Persuasive as I would ever be    
I asked him again to stay longer.
His face showed the minute to come
would come for me.  He lifted me up
like the last time and said Yes I will.     

 Visitation Rights

The streets unreadable with snow,
she dressed me as a message
to him.  Trusted to deliver myself,

I went down the subway, brushing snow,
stamping snow off me.  Fearing
some flakes clung to and hid what she

had meant by me, I inhaled the station’s
warm, sour smell to the bottom
of my lungs, on through membranes,

out into my clothes — as a sign to him
I took myself seriously
as wet wool, came through as planned.


Heart attacks muscles
blood retreats.
Welcome salt water
returning to lungs.

Ration what blood comes
through till chest burns low.
In between feel
limbs swell, skin float

inland seas.  Dig tunnels
borrow blood
search for unsplit
wood beneath embers.

Spill slow, ash sucks in
more than back when.
Wait until sunk
then fire up again.