Paul Nemser

End of the Century
July 24, 2017 Nemser Paul

End of the Century           


We’ve slept too long, and that hasn’t stopped the incidental warping—

constellations crossing, new diamond-scratch on glass.

Radio jumps off the bedstand.  No one

can hear or see, as the Ramones hammer

in the background their future, our present alarm.


You were a Japanese print of stars before there were blocks of wood,

a satellite before legs, a second of parallax before any ticks were biting.

I love the short form of you, though no one keeps

time anymore, no one can say whose clouds

have stolen the stellar normal curves. Darling,


I remember now. I was supposed to report

on goats and goat paths in Eden.  To trace wrens’ flitting

at the motionless peripheries. To stop

the briefest minute as it shrinks like a tide.

I have known so much less than awareness asked of me.


Seaweed in the astral sea looks everywhere

to find the light in which it swims.

A lovely, lamented oilslick rocks,

rocks at star-set.  The Great Bear will soon bash

a bird feeder off its pole, causing a supernova of sunflower seeds.


But nothing arrives as gears and maps predict.  Nothing rings

bright or smooth.  I was supposed to report

that the universe is kinked, resistance

is the lark song that estranges us from C,

and there isn’t any scratch we could call a note.


I was supposed to  record a tuna’s blue thrashing

in the foam of a soundless, television storm.


Wasps fly at our teeth, but miss and freak the screen.

It is beautiful to hear the sparks before we see them

in a window—in the window, our window-selves.

Paul Nemser’s book Taurus (2013) won the New American Poetry Prize, and his chapbook of prose poems Tales of the Tetragrammaton was published in 2014.  His poems appear widely in magazines, recently in The Baffler, Beloit Poetry Journal, London Review of Books, The Massachusetts Review, and The Missouri Review, among others.  Nemser lives with his wife Rebecca in Cambridge, MA, and Harborside, ME.