This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Christopher Janigian. 


Operation Haze


When the ark came in
I didn’t know 
how but I knew I wanted
to study its fluids
There was this pressure 
that tugged
Sailors combed my beard


The dock kept sinking / resurfacing
before me / I brought
down / all the yellow lines 

two emerald / aluminum 
ramps / two driftwood circles
were in there


Unpeeling the copper / I kept
myself in accord 
with a relic 

Uncorrupt eyes 
in a goblet
or in my hands / eyes 
when the captain ordered
their color removed 


A man in a yellow vest
swam toward me / past me
toward laser-light
capillaries / fog off the coast

Off another coast / a bruise 
a stone


There was a chamber
with wet tiles / with a calm turtle 
with a bleeding shell
My investigation 
had slipped through me / Nectary 
sailors in the bathtub / How did they get there


Grinding / they were wringing
the math out of me / said won’t you let
the calibration lines
lap your body 


No sound 
but a blurry tank 
was coming / I tried 
to find human eyes / was distracted 
by a vacancy


Yesterday I lost two lights
when I ripped the yellow ones 
out / Now it’s just me 
and a borrowed mile


I think the sailors are okay
This is what I see: one sterile boat 
one wooden boat and yellow
cars coming through both


To sense a gap
open. To feel it
utterly as one stays
flaccid in a locker room.

I looked down: feet
deep in a puddle / I could count 
all the toes / boats I wanted



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).