The National Poetry Review

Benjamin Gucciardi


For twenty days we bore our shadows.
No one touches, gestures are forbidden,
silence assumed. At 4 o’clock each morning
one of us strikes the gong and the others hurry
to their cells. Eyes down, I miss the brazen stars
overhead and the dew on the spider’s webs
is a distraction. I sit in the dark
trying to direct my mind. Craving arises,
slowly subsides. In the afternoon,
when the deer come into the valley,
one man can’t hold back his smile.
He catches me watching him,
we are both ashamed. I take two meals a day
without savoring. My muscles dull
as my senses sharpen.
The clock hands hammer seconds
into hours. Grief arises,
is supposed to subside.
Then evening comes and again
I am grateful to be told what to do.

BENJAMIN GUCCIARDI’s first book, West Portal (University of Utah Press) was selected by Gabrielle Calvocoressi for the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. He is also the author of the forthcoming chapbook Timeless Tips for Simple Sabotage, chosen by Elena Passarello as the winner of the 2020 Quarterly West Chapbook contest, and I Ask My Sister’s Ghost (DIAGRAM/New Michigan Press, 2020). His poems have appeared in outlets such as AGNI, Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Harvard Review, New Ohio Review and Orion Magazine, and have been featured in Poetry Daily and Verse Daily.

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