David Semanki’s terse and elegant poems study the weight of gestures, silence, hope and misgiving as they exist within his human subjects. His gaze is cinematic in its precision, spotlighting the emotional and narrative significance of small yet key details within the everyday world: street lamps, roadside weeds, chimes in a courtyard, the frost on a window.—Tracy K. Smith


Film Study: Transcendence

A modern section of Rome. She walks home
from his apartment along the edge of a wide, empty street
passing under the dusky branches of a conifer.
The street lights are off. Close by, a water tower rises.
Contentment fills her. She sweeps her shawl
over the purple and burnt orange heads of roadside weeds and wild flowers.
A silence ripens in all things. Reflected
in the late summer sprawl, finality and prospect.
Night has faded. The dawn shimmers
like hand-blown glass, activated by light.


Shouldn’t you both be used to it—

a ritual which you revert to each night?
This turning off the light,
lying still, falling asleep.

Why such sadness
between you? Isn’t there comfort
in even this simple sound of
chimes stirring in the courtyard willow?

Do you always
need more?

Such clarity
to barren winter; moonlight on
a block of row houses,
the river end of the street shimmering—

these aren’t obstacles, but gifts
you’ve been given,

as now you’re privileged to behold
each other’s despair—

in despair you’re called back to your real selves.
Behind the blue and white curtain
frost stars the window.


David Semanki holds an MFA from Columbia University. He edited and wrote the commentary for Sylvia Plath’s Ariel: The Restored Edition. His poems have appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, The Yale Review, American Poetry Review, The Paris Review, and The New York Times Book Review.

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