This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Jay Deshpande. 

Telemachus to Awareness

in the ropes
in the black ropes

the ships
light down
the cliffs

and you
rise up them

the slick dark
side of the island
your throat.

take up
your instrument.


The Partners

I want to sleep like the partners sleep. In the grass, in thicker sheets. The partners know how to keep the visions hidden. The partners are never jealous, never needing, just waiting in offices, even their patience has a patience. The partners have a way of talking, it’s not exactly simultaneous. I like the way the partners keep their emotions below the bottom line. At daybreak the partners decide unilaterally to visit a wishing well. The partners look at the wishing well but every one of them realizes it is a small blue bucket with a sheet of paper over it. The partners fall precisely in love with said sheet of paper. When the partners hold your hand your hand disappears. The partners are looking for new expenses, some new expenses for each of them, they really think it’s going to work this time. The partners are in love with the word “lightfallen.” The partners redact, they make you stay late, the partners redact everything. The partners look you in the eye but don’t know your name exactly. Do you have a last name? The partners are looking for it. The partners are looking at the sea, they say for an alternative to mutuality. The partners are looking forward to next season. The partners have built a small nest in the corner of the office, the corner of the floor. The partners are determined this time and nothing can stand in their way. In our way. In the way you stare at the partners. Once the partners stood in the way but we don’t talk about that any more. All we talk about now is the partners, the partners the partners are everything, our mouths are flush with the partners. We are eating the partners and speaking through the act. It makes us more successful.  


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).