Poetry’s all very well
but it rhymes and scans, its lines
strap you into carved Imperial chairs, tie you
to the headboard of a four-poster bed. What I need
is words that never sleep, a futuristic babble, glossolalia
ancient words that only unborn babies understand, pure sound.

Nancy Mattson

The border

November 19, 2019

The border is a line that birds cannot see. The border is a beautiful piece of paper folded carelessly in half. The border is where flint first met steel, starting a century of fires. The border is a belt that is too tight, holding things up but making it hard to breathe. The border is a rusted hinge that does not bend. The border is the blood clot in the river’s vein. The border says stop to the wind, but the wind speaks another language, and keeps going. The border is a brand, the “Double-X” of barbed wire scarred into the skin of so many. The border has always been a welcome stopping place but is now a stop sign, always red. The border is a jump rope still there even after the game is finished.  The border is a real crack in an imaginary dam. The border used to be an actual place, but now, it is the act of a thousand imaginations. The border, the word border, sounds like order, but in this place they do not rhyme. The border is a handshake that becomes a squeezing contest. The border smells like cars at noon and wood smoke in the evening. The border is the place between the two pages in a book where the spine is bent too far. The border is two men in love with the same woman. The border is an equation in search of an equals sign. The border is the location of the factory where lightning and thunder are made. The border is “NoNo” The Clown, who can’t make anyone laugh. The border is a locked door that has been promoted. The border is a moat but without a castle on either side. The border has become Checkpoint Chale. The border is a place of plans constantly broken and repaired and broken. The border is mighty, but even the parting of the seas created a path, not a barrier. The border is a big, neat, clean, clear black line on a map that does not exist. The border is the line in new bifocals: below, small things get bigger; above, nothing changes. The border is a skunk with a white line down its back.

Alberto Ríos
The Border: A Double Sonnet

word of witness

November 19, 2019

The poem is a thing between You and I. It builds, line by line, a ground across which You and I can meet, can see one another, can be in the moral bind of the gaze.

An elegy is a poem to a “you” gone missing. When the poem sings, “you” appears.

But what if there were a world in which, on a forced march, a guard calls out not a name, but yells out only “you,” and a young man, a prisoner, steps out from the line in which he trudges through the cold forward, and realizing he wasn’t the one being spoken too, blushes as if embarrassed at his mistake, and then the guard shoots him. What if there were a world in which children were packed into train cars and shipped to camps, and those that were too young to know their names had them written on a scrap of cardboard hung on a string around their neck, but with no food, no water, and the train ride so long, the children ate their names for they had no other food, and when they arrive, no one knows what to call them, those children to be called only “you.” But what if there were a world in which a crippled boy in a camp speaks over and over a variant of one word but no one knows what that word means, and he limps from person to person saying mass-klo or matisklo, and others in the camp think it is the child’s name, and some thing it means bread, or meat, but no one knows with any certainty this one word the boy speaks, his only word, and now nothing of him remains, because in the camp he died. What if there were a world in which that word remains speaking forever in the air. What if there were a world…o one, o none, o no one, o you…in which that word were the only word of witness.

Dan Beachy-Quick
Sibboleth

Books

November 19, 2019

Books don’t offer real escape, but they can stop a mind scratching itself raw.

David Mitchell
Cloud Atlas

ashamed

November 19, 2019

In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.

Confucius
Analects, VIII

Ghost

November 19, 2019

She was a ghost to him now, and yet he could sense her everywhere around him.

Nightfall

November 19, 2019

Nightfall.
What a strange word.
Night’ I get.
But ‘fall’ is a gentle word.
Autumn leaves fall, swirling with languid grace
To carpet the earth with their dying blaze.
Tears fall, like liquid diamonds
Shimmering softly, before they melt away.
Night doesn’t fall here.
It comes slamming down.

Karen Marie Moning
Faefever