Brian Sneeden


Somewhere where you cannot see them
the dead are making paper bells

and stringing them together, one to the other, via
the last remaining branches in the city,

without touching the birds
or the tiny squares of light

from off the paper windows. At times it seems
when you walk past at dawn

threading your new shadow out in front,
and the old one folding

carefully behind, a word of static
enters the street— touching

the filaments of the gingkoes,
and the smoke-thin bones

in the palms of the leaves. But if
you were to call up to them

or to hold your breath
the time it took to count

to sixteen, they would close
their hands at once, and reach instead

to touch your hair, as if to figure out
which one of you

had happened before. All
that time, their delicate fingers

vanishing in and out of the world,
pressing a seam before folding

the new corners and distances of your life
like white paper.

Brian Sneeden’s first collection of poems, Last City, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press (2018). His work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Harvard Review, TriQuarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other publications, and translations of his poems have been published in international magazines in Greek, Albanian, and Serbian. His translation of Phoebe Giannisi’s poetry collection, Homerica, is forthcoming from the inaugural series of World Poetry Books (2017). Brian received his MFA from the University of Virginia, where he held a Poe/Faulkner Fellowship in creative writing and served as poetry editor for Meridian. He is the senior editor of New Poetry in Translation.