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The Only Confession

I did something wrong I carved a name

into a tree and it wasn’t even mine

the name belonged to someone

I used to love the tree

belonged to no one at all

and I wept as soon as I dug in

the knife how hard I tried to make

the vowels sing but the old tree

said nothing it was both witness

and victim it was one of those trees

with too many hearts too many

couples leaving so cruelly

their initials I believe in a poem

there’s room for only one heart

in this way it’s like a person

let’s call her Jeanne


The Only Piccolo

I knew a man who died was

a conductor he made everyone love

to play music when he lifted his arms

they got louder when he crouched

they whispered away like mice

the woman playing the piccolo was

very close to this man after the funeral

I offered you can stay with me I was

in love with her loss and mine

the way we lifted our arms to share

impressions of him and maybe bring

him back at midnight like mice

we crawled into the wall and then

whispered his name it was not love

we made much too quiet I think

the house empty even of us


Ben Purkert is the author of For the Love of Endings (Four Way Books), named one of Adroit's Best Poetry Books of 2018. His poems appear in The New Yorker, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Tin House Online, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. A contributing editor at Guernica, he is the founder of Back Draft, an interview series focused on poets and revision. He currently teaches at Rutgers.

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