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