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Glossary of Loss and Other Poems by Dean Kostos

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a small boat that ferries people to a port

A bed sails down a river, a name carved
into its headboard. Floating
from Amherst, Emily Dickinson unlaces
her coutil corset with a quill, scrawls:

A bed is not a boat, twinned
in water’s reflection, but a vessel
into Mind. When hallelujahs echo
from distant hymnals,

she recalls mulberries
in May, fingers blued. Today, she tastes
the burn of absence, metallic
on her tongue. Dust darkens

beveled windows, ghosting panes, each one
a quatrain onto Paradise. Squinting
through history’s glass—future,
past—she knows the bed

will arrive, sheets embroidered
with eglantine. Unbraiding
her hair, she’ll dip its strands
to inscribe her stanzas in water,

words that will unwrite themselves.


“Listen, O drop, give yourself up / without regret, and in     
 exchange, gain the Ocean.”  —Rumi
Is the central figure a body
or a scarab? The form suggests fullness
& vacancy—a mother dying

in childbirth, exhaling her last breath.
Ghost-blur. If the motif is a scarab—
its carapace bordered by forests

of paisleys, the reality plunges
into night’s seamless sea. The cloth is
backlit, enlivened by external

(rather than eternal) light—effulgence
wavering by a ruined window, glass
casket encasing flounce & flaunt. Textile

becomes text—elegy summoned to cumin
walls. I descend steps, attentive
to a light, sweating: drop, drop, drop.


Maya, translated as “illusion,” literally means
“that which can be measured.”

Architraves rumble with horses inhaling night
Balusters bow like pregnant widows
Cynosures curve beyond the eyeball
Death cannot be measured
Embouchure moistens into prayers, burying the young
Falconry imps an angel’s wing with wood & fish glue
Gallic flying buttresses prop up shades
Helixes spin into kaleidoscopic wounds
Ideographs scrawl with quills plucked from angel wings
Jubilate Agno ends with a wail
Knives-in-hand, the dead huddle
Lakes reflect statues with broken noses
Mouths full of chocolate: mourners murmur
Night singes Dickinson’s synaesthesia
Obituaries describe fathers sons never knew
Pilasters are the half-life of columns
Querulous Eros chafes in a shroud
Rage bends into question-mark hooks
Sanskrit vines twist over windows
Tholoi are buildings without entrance or exit
Undulating scents carve a child’s cortex
Vestiges of tears crust lachrymatories
Writing against Reason, Blake dusts ink with ash
X-rays expose talismans
Yawp emerges from Whitman’s keen
Zeroes are now mistaken for haloes.

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Dean Kostos collection—This Is Not a Skyscraper—won the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, selected by Mark Doty, forthcoming from Red Hen Press. He is the author of the previous collections: Rivering, Last Supper of the Senses, The Sentence That Ends with a Comma (which was required reading at Duke University), and Celestial Rust. His poems, personal essays, and reviews have appeared in The Bangalore Review (India), Barrow Street, Boulevard, Chelsea, Cimarron Review, Mediterranean Poetry (Sweden), New Madrid, Southwest Review, Stand Magazine (UK), Western Humanities Review, on Oprah Winfrey’s website, the Harvard UP website, and elsewhere. He have taught poetry writing at the Gallatin School of New York University, The Columbia Scholastic Press Association, The City University of New York, and Wesleyan. Also, a recipient of a Yaddo fellowship, He have served as literary judge for Columbia University’s Gold Crown Awards.

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