All We Are Given We Cannot Hold



Whirling axis, spine of a spinning top. Love 
between us all maybe and blush. Night we press 
against us, secret we caress, word we write in steam

we breathe on glass. What we let fly from our fingers, 
love between us. String we find to weave a world. 
Valleys of lavender spilling for miles. All the stars 

we can name. Lemon and willow, love between us. 
A riffle of yellow. Shadow of sheets on the line. 
Mast and sail, the days adrift, the summer all billow 

and cream. Endless yes, love between us, and passing. 
Droop of a flush pink bloom at noon. Love between us 
a dappled garden shade, gate of vines. A house of hours 

and only we’ve the key. Love between us the daylong rain. 
Love between us glance and veil, the gauzy sleeve 
of evening giving way. Grey mare in the mist, acres 

of breeze and beachgrass, love between us chasm 
and sea. Flicker or blaze. Weather of our making. 
Wild heaven going, love between us. All the windfall 

apples and the sweet crush of dusk. Love between us 
the unfleshed light. Night a book we want to open, love 
between us, the story we writhe inside. Box of letters 

in a dusty attic, the sky’s ancient fires we extinguish 
each day we don’t kiss. Static and stir, a spark, love 
between us, the silver arc we make across the stark 

and vast. Given one life to remember, love between us, 
one lost language we’re given to taste. Each fading sentence
to erase, love between us. Or to pass between our tongues.

Robert Fanning is the author of Severance, Our Sudden Museum, American Prophet, and The Seed Thieves, as well as two chapbooks: Sheet Music and Old Bright Wheel. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, Shenandoah, Gulf Coast, and other journals. He is a professor of English at Central Michigan University.

[Purchase Issue 24 here.]

All We Are Given We Cannot Hold

Related Posts

Poetry Feature: Poems from the Immigrant Farmworker Community

Days into the promise of a new year, resolutions plentiful, blossoming, / seven farmworkers were shot and killed harvesting mushrooms in Half Moon Bay. / Those of us who sprouted from families, whose hands and backs worked the land, / waited for news of our farmworker siblings.

A White House against a blue sky, with a watertower on top.

Two Poems by Liza Katz Duncan

First the marsh grass came, then the motherwort, / then bitterberry and honeysuckle. Blackbirds, / gulls and grackles built their nests. / Mourning doves call from the eaves / of the old factory, closed during the Depression.

sunflower against a backdrop of sunlight

August 2023 Poetry Feature

My neighbor really has nothing to do / but mow his grass & watch television. / It’s the quiet life for him. The adhesive / bandage of his tongue comes out as / rarely as his partner. And the dog? I / could say anything about him & no one / would know the difference. That sounds / cruel.