This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Brian Foley. 


Orpheus Come to Hell

I hear the people
who walked here.
I hear it and then you
hear it too.
On the road
the yellow leaves
coming to an end
never drop, stretching
out their change, some-
thing bright to mark
their bodies from
the black grass. Here
          is what we know.
This is the music
they would listen to.
They were addicts.
Here is what we know.
We’re not crazy.
Our instruments
are impaired.
Far from civilization
we’re not where
we’re supposed to be.
So here we are.
And this meeting
is officially
about the possibility
of turning back.


Wine Dark Tree

Once upon a
  time is a bone
I’ve dreamed of

being intercepted
         by the shade of this tree
      all my

life distorts the acts
      of watching

work through
      webs & starve
      yr spider to death

The air weighs
a billion
pounds the lungs must itch
           all of it through

its catalog – gods
without men without
women without children


Life distorts
the acts
of watching

That nothing arrives
  above it
among the shade of

  day too will fail
       to make history

Old Mary
     full of grease

let useless be-
 come Ulysses


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).