Derek Graf

In the Rendaku Forest

I hid the nest in a boxcar but it was already torn apart. I put your wet hair to my lips before the animals climbed our black gate. For us I have collected ragweed in tin cans: over the locusts I will close my fist before the crippled birds are all drowned out. Here is my night dripped in blood: here I have one scar that always returns. We could be any suitcase people—we could drag the mirror to its knees and say: a brother is where you cannot touch the leaves. I will hold tight these sticks while you wait for a fever we can burn through.

In the Rendaku Forest

I have listened to the night’s empty corner and I admit, I bleed everything: the open seams in your woolen throat, the black threads of rivers, the bracken, the burning curtains. I have fastened my fists with wasps and buried the moon in carrion—I have dragged locusts from the trees and in these unfledged nests I will sketch your corpse in ink: my hands will carry dirt from the churchyard and stack our coffins in the town green. Let us clean the blood from the harbor; let us frame the nebulas in their static and stitch this sackcloth with our ashes. Let the clouds whisper through our bones, let winter fill our mouths with voices that lift like crows: when the stars lie still on our fingertips, let us pin together our scars.

In the Rendaku Forest

Some nights the stars are like dead moths in a black bag. Some nights I swing a broken violin from the back window and remember you: I remember the arches and the fields and the long fingers of lightning. I remember the cold equations of hills and the cloven vandal of the moon. Some nights I count gutter birds as your brown eyes burn out: I have seen only dry Novembers in them. Some nights I bury the sky behind a locked door: I remember you playing this song back, but I hear nothing.

In the Rendaku Forest

I am three weeks removed from the snow, which means that wherever I go my coma comes with me, and if we ever meet, meet me at the neon corners of every street in this state: one of us will write great books and one of us will wait outside the bathroom: the static heat won’t rise until we take our mouths off each other. We are the first syllables of a new vocabulary and all of the libraries in the county are jealous—we promised to open the universe by degrees and plaster together each of these broken trees, but crows are gathering in the town green and say they won’t leave without stealing all the words ever spoken between us.

Artist’s Statement

As I understand it, Rendaku is a linguistic phenomenon centered on the idea of sequential voices. I’m interested in exploring the ways in which multiple voices, and thereby multiple speakers, can inhabit the same poem, the same metaphorical space. Moreover, I envision this space as a forest, a place of many darknesses, shades, and dangers. What happens when language turns against us? Where do we turn when our voices fail, when others invade us?

Derek Graf’s poems have appeared in The Boiler Journal, Misfit Magazine, and Meat for Tea: The Valley Review, and are forthcoming in Radar Poetry, Otis Nebula, and Lunch Ticket. His chapbook, What the Dying Man Asked Me, is forthcoming from ELJ Publications in 2015.
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About Posit Editor

Susan Lewis ( is the Editor-in-chief and founder of Posit ( and the author of ten books and chapbooks, including Zoom (winner of the Washington Prize), Heisenberg's Salon, This Visit, and State of the Union. Her poetry has appeared in anthologies such as Walkers in the City (Rain Taxi), They Said (Black Lawrence Press), and Resist Much, Obey Little (Dispatches/Spuyten Duyvil), as well as in journals such as Agni, Boston Review, The Brooklyn Rail, Conjunctions online, Diode, Interim, New American Writing, and VOLT.