The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Peter Vertacnik

Reading Together




My father reads out loud to me

from books I can’t yet understand.

I’m four and balanced on his knee.

My father reads out loud. To me

it sounds like setting letters free—

as if they act at his command.

My father reads out loud to me

from books I can’t yet understand.





My father tries to read out loud

from books he once could comprehend.

His face perplexed, his bald head bowed,

my father tries to read out loud.

I slouch beside him, silent, cowed.

Here’s something words will not transcend.

My father tries to read out loud

From books he once could comprehend.



Peter Vertacnik

Fall Day


Lord: it is time. The summer was so long.

Settle your broad shadows on the sundials,

And in the meadows let the wind grow strong.


Bid the late fruits to ripen on the vine;

Allow them two more warm and sun-filled days,

Exhort them towards completion then, and chase

The last sweetness into the heavy wine.


Who has no house, their building now will cease.

Who lives alone now, will remain alone,

Will wake up early, read, compose long letters,

And wander up and down the tree-edged streets

Restlessly, as spent leaves start to scatter.






Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren, 
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los. 

Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein; 
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage, 
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage 
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein. 

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr. 
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben, 
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben 
und wird in den Alleen hin und her 
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben. 

Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Book of Images




PETER VERTACNIK is a graduate student in literature and creative writing at Texas Tech University. His poems have appeared previously in Asses of ParnassusAutumn Sky Poetry DailyLiterary Matters, Lucid Rhythms, and The Orchards Poetry Journal.


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