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The Day & the Hour

In Cergowa, I considered Iceland's economy. Not for long. I was more concerned with light curve photometry, the way it tests the dawn with circles & bees. I was a beginner then. Still am. I requested waves & stems, but Dominique would have none of it. She was partial to woolen ships & portentous nests. I couldn't blame her, but I did. I requested a trail into the wilderness of both of us. We moved down it like foreign secretaries cut off from history, startled by the blade-flash, a trail of receipts flung toward horizon. She carried a pail full of hope & mittens. I had a vial of liquid death in my pocket. We almost tripped over a hose. That's when we found the swamp leek orchid. I approached. She stopped me. She moved toward it before halting with a shock. I remembered Helsinki, the enchanted lake, the mournful firemen in the sapphire vault. This wasn't that. This was neither a rainstorm, nor a job offer. This was the day & the hour, the simple arithmetic of masks pulled from cobwebs & dropped into a salt marsh. I sniffed the flower. She caressed it. We stayed there for a while, a tent of silence billowing around us. The Seine raged in the distance. Eventually, we moved on toward clover harbors & division cameras that considered the migration of vests through abstruse bushes. I'd once had a badge, but I flung it off a bridge. I told a stranger that his watch was fish furniture. He agreed but added that The Affair of the Poisons was ongoing, its insects strung like bells through border towns, past baby meetings where trays have agendas no rabbit can cancel. I knew he was trying to help, to point the way past the knife festivals & knowledge committees. I sincerely thanked him, & we embarked, finally, for Mint Island.


CHRISTOPHER BREAN MURRAY’s book, Black Observatory, was chosen by Dana Levin as the winner of the 2021–2022 Jake Adam York Prize. It will be published by Milkweed Editions in 2023. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, New Ohio Review, Washington Square Review, and other journals. He lives in Houston.


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