Every Atom | No. 74

Sean Thomas Dougherty

Introduction to Every Atom by project curator Brian Clements

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And Nothing Collapses       


On a night without luck             The bent spoon

Of the moon

In the streetlamp handle           The sleeper

Nods her sleepy head                 On the fire-escape

Of the squatted flat                     The switchblade

Sleeps in its sheath                      The bullet in its chamber

Who sells nickel bags anymore

                                                          Who is trying to score

A dime’s worth of regret

Remember that time                   At the bayfront bar

Where the muscled iron welder


“I just snorted half an oxy          Now you’re done”

Then weaned his paycheck       Rack by rack

The sad tunes we croon             Like country songs

All end in what we wrote          What random pages

Dogeared with our dead             What chapters crossed out

And revised                                    Collections of what we’ve lost

Bargained for                                 And blurred  

Through the ice                             In a glass

We lift                                              To toast

Those stories earned                   The ones

We’ve learned                                To tell

Make even                                       Strangers    

Guffaw                                             A sound that sews

The hole in the dark

We carry                                         Inside our veins

Or in the wound                           Of the bandage

Thread bare                                   And unraveling

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Sean Thomas Dougherty is the author or editor of 17 books, including The Second O of Sorrow (BOA Editions 2018), co-winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize, and Alongside We Travel:  Contemporary Poets on Autism (NYQ Books 2019). He works as a med tech in Erie, PA.


Cover photo by Jon Tyson for Unsplash