Eric Pankey: Three Poems

Featured Poet:
Eric Pankey


He does not remember the photograph, now lost.
He does recall the moment the photograph was taken
But even that is hazy, ungraspable, really,
Thus in its vagueness all the more poignant.
On the periphery: a field of pale violet shadow;
Some indistinct outbuildings, a gray torpor in the upper sky.
The recollected visual space does not cohere.
A stringent odor: a burnt bundle of oak catkins, say,
But far off, the distance of a childhood winter
Or cold spring, when he held the fishhook barb
To his index finger and considered how little
Its technology had changed since the Neolithic age.


The moon, reflected in the bay window,
Serves as a placeholder, as an aides-memoire.
Of course, an empty space invites trespass.

A lock forced. A door thrown wide open
Sets the accumulated dust in motion.
No body is shaped from that dust,

No breath enkindles a specter,
In spite of evidence to the contrary.
Moonlit motes illuminate the fallow space.

The interior, breached, remains entangled
In the past, but the trespasser finds it empty,
Which is to say, unsettled, disenchanted.


The scene appears cut short; the about-to-happen is stalled,
Or rather never arrives. The loop of film loops;

Its one splice undetectable. The image appears still, static:
A chair, wedged in at a forty-five degree angle,

Barricades the door. Whoever might enter by force
Will be delayed, but not stopped. The past, though distant,

Is intimate. The truant moment, as yet to come,
Gathers like water behind a wall, does not yet bleed through.

The red second hand on the clock appears to shimmer.
On the opposite wall, curtains obscure the view out.

Perhaps it is a sunny day, or perhaps the fog
Has settled in: dense, pervasive, incalculable.

Eric Pankey has two poetry collections forthcoming: a full-length collection, Not Yet Transfigured, from Orison Books in 2021 and a chapbook, The Future Perfect: A Fugue, from Tupelo Press in 2022. He is Heritage Chair and Professor of English at George Mason University.

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