Poem for the Day: October 23rd, 2021

SONG: Poems by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

All Wild Animals Were Once Called Deer by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Some truck was gunning the night before up Pippin Hill's steep grade
And the doe was thrown wide. This happened five years ago now,
Or six. She must have come out of the woods by Simpson's red trailer—
The one that looks like a faded train car—and the driver
Did not see her. His brakes no good. Or perhaps she hit the truck.
That happens, too. A figure swims up from nowhere, a flying figure
That seems to be made of nothing more than moonlight, or vapor,
Until it slams its face, solid as stone, against the glass.
And maybe when this happens the driver gets out. Maybe not.
Strange about the kills we get without intending them.
Because we are pointed in the direction of something.
Because we are distracted at just the right moment, or the wrong.
We were waiting for the school bus. It was early, but not yet light.
We watched the darkness draining off like the last residue
Of water from a tub. And we didn't speak, because that was our way.
High up a plane droned, drone of the cold, and behind us the flag
In front of the Bank of Hope's branch trailer snapped and popped in the wind.
It sounded like a boy whipping a wet towel against a thigh
Or like the stiff beating of a swan's wings as it takes off
From the lake, a flat drumming sound, the sound of something
Being pounded until it softens, and then—as the wind lowered
And the flag ran out wide—there was a second sound, the sound of running fire.
And there was the scraping, too, the sad knife-against-skin scraping
Of the acres of field corn strung out in straggling rows
Around the branch trailer that had been, the winter before, our town's claim to fame
When, in the space of two weeks, it was successfully robbed twice.
The same man did it both times, in the same manner.
He had a black hood and a gun, and he was so polite
That the embarrassed teller couldn't hide her smile when he showed up again.
They didn't think it could happen twice. But sometimes it does.
Strange about that. Lightning strikes and strikes again.
My piano teacher watched her husband, who had been struck as a boy,
Fall for good, years later, when he was hit again.
He was walking across a cut corn field toward her, stepping over
The dead stalks, holding the bag of nails he'd picked up at the hardware store
Out like a bouquet. It was drizzling so he had his umbrella up.
There was no thunder, nothing to be afraid of.
And then a single bolt from nowhere, and for a moment the man
Was doing a little dance in a movie, a jig, three steps or four,
Before he dropped like a cloth, or a felled bird.
This happened twenty years ago now, but my teacher keeps
Telling me the story. She hums while she plays. And we were humming
That morning by the bus stop. A song about boys and war.
And the thing about the doe was this. She looked alive.
As anything will in the half light. As lawn statues will.
I was going to say as even children playing a game of statues will,
But of course they are alive. Though sometimes
A person pretending to be a statue seems farther gone in death
Than a statue does. Or to put it another way,
Death seems to be the living thing, the thing
The thing that looks out through the eyes. Strange about that . . .
We stared at the doe for a long time and I thought about the way
A hunter slits a deer's belly. I've watched this many times.
And the motion is a deft one. It is the same motion the swan uses
When he knifes the children down by his pond on Wasigan Road.
They put out a hand. And quick as lit grease, the swan's
Boneless neck snakes around in a sideways circle, driving
The bill hard toward the softest spot . . . All those songs
We sing about swans, but they are mean. And up close, often ugly.
That old Wasigan bird is a smelly, moth-eaten thing.
His wings stained yellow as if he chewed tobacco,
His upper bill broken from his foul-tempered strikes.
And he is awkward, too, out of the water. Broken-billed and gaited.
When he grapples down the steep slope, wheezing and spitting,
He looks like some old man recovering from hip surgery,
Slowly slapping down one cursed flat foot, then the next.
But the thing about the swan is this. The swan is made for the water.
You can't judge him out of it. He's made for the chapter
In the rushes. He's like one of those small planes my brother flies.
Ridiculous things. Something a boy dreams up late at night
While he stares at the stars. Something a child draws.
I've watched my brother take off a thousand times, and it's always
The same. The engine spits and dies, spits and catches—
A spurting match—and the machine shakes and shakes as if it were
Stuck together with glue and wound up with a rubber band.
It shimmies the whole way down the strip, past the pond
Past the wind bagging the goose-necked wind sock, past the banks
Of bright red and blue planes. And as it climbs slowly
Into the air, wobbling from side to side, cautious as a rock climber,
Putting one hand forward then the next, not even looking
At the high spot above the tree line that is the question,
It seems that nothing will keep it up, not a wish, not a dare,
Not the proffered flowers of our held breath. It seems
As if the plane is a prey the hunter has lined up in his sights,
His finger pressing against the cold metal, the taste of blood
On his tongue . . . but then, at the dizzying height
Of our dismay, just before the sky goes black,
The climber's frail hand reaches up and grasps the highest rock,
Hauling, with a last shudder, the body over,
The gun lowers, and perfectly poised now, high above
The dark pines, the plane is home free. It owns it all, all.
My brother looks down and counts his possessions,
Strip and grass, the child's cemetery the black tombstones
Of the cedars make on the grassy hill, the wind-scrubbed
Face of the pond, the swan's white stone . . .
In thirty years, roughly, we will all be dead . . . That is one thing . . .
And you can't judge the swan out of the water . . . That is another.
The swan is mean and ugly, stupid as stone,
But when it finally makes its way down the slope, over rocks
And weeds, through the razory grasses of the muddy shallows,
The water fanning out in loose circles around it
And then stilling, when it finally reaches the deepest spot
And raises in slow motion its perfectly articulated wings,
Wings of smoke, wings of air, then everything changes.
Out of the shallows, the lovers emerge, sword and flame,
And over the pond's lone island the willow spills its canopy,
A shifting feast of gold and green, a spell of lethal beauty.
O bird of moonlight. O bird of wish. O sound rising
Like an echo from the water. Grief sound. Sound of the horn.
The same ghostly sound the deer makes when it runs
Through the woods at night, white lightning through the trees,
Through the coldest moments, when it feels as if the earth
Will never again grow warm, lover running toward lover,
The branches tearing back, the mouth and eyes wide,
The heart flying into the arms of the one that will kill her.

© 1994 Brigit Pegeen Kelly. “All Wild Animals Were Once Called Deer” first appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 34 No. 4 (Winter 1993) and was published by BOA Editions in 1994 as part of Kelly’s collection SONG: Poems. SONG: Poems was chosen as the 1994 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 22nd, 2021

SHORELINES by Adil Jussawalla

Bells by Adil Jussawalla

Their bells replaced by tins they rattle,
the city’s lepers don’t mean to warn
but in your face seek the metal you think
they’re worth. For once, for some moments,
as I drop my ransom and make my getaway
— it’s a street that housed the port’s warehouses once —
I hear bells from Surat ringing an evening’s close,
the murmur of crowds dispersing,
watch the harbour’s torches light up a quay
I never stepped on and a grandfather I never met,
his eye on his watch, just beginning to know
how little it takes for a day to be extinguished,
how long for bells to make us believe it has gone.

© 2019 Adil Jussawalla. “Bells” appears in Jussawalla’s collection SHORELINES, which was published in 2019 by Poetrywala and is now available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 21st, 2021

Traveling by Malena Mörling

Like streetlights
still lit
past dawn,
the dead
stare at us
from the framed
photographs.

You may say otherwise,
but there they are,
still here
traveling
continuously
backwards
without a sound
further and further
into the past.

© 2006 Malena Mörling and the University of Pittsburgh Press. “Traveling” appears in Astoria, which was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2006 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 20th, 2021

the tenderness of autumn by Madisen Kuhn

i hold onto 
the way the air feels in october
it brings out the best in me
unlike the violating heat
of august that fills the space between
the dirt and the heavens
only a handful of moons prior to
the golden treetops and the
ritualistic pumpkin and maple
that stir our hearts and reveal
our need for stupid, cheery things

the earth is falling asleep
lying its head to rest
in the fading foliage on the ground
folding up the day into smaller
and smaller glimpses of light
but here i am
bathing in the soft wind
here i am
grinning in a grey sweater
here i am
waking up

© 2018 Madisen Kuhn.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 19th, 2021

Pluto Shits on the Universe by Fatimah Asghar

On February 7, 1979, Pluto crossed over Neptune’s orbit and became the eighth planet from the sun for twenty years. A study in 1988 determined that Pluto’s path of orbit could never be accurately predicted. Labeled as “chaotic,” Pluto was later discredited from planet status in 2006.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops.
My bad. Your graph said I was supposed
to make a nice little loop around the sun.

Naw.

I chaos like a motherfucker. Ain’t no one can
chart me. All the other planets, they think
I’m annoying. They think I’m an escaped
moon, running free.

Fuck your moon. Fuck your solar system.
Fuck your time. Your year? Your year ain’t
shit but a day to me. I could spend your
whole year turning the winds in my bed. Thinking
about rings and how Jupiter should just pussy
on up and marry me by now. Your day?

That’s an asswipe. A sniffle. Your whole day
is barely the start of my sunset.

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.
Somewhere in the mess of graphs and math and compass
you tried to make me follow rules. Rules? Fuck your
rules. Neptune, that bitch slow. And I deserve all the sun
I can get, and all the blue-gold sky I want around me.

It is February 7th, 1979 and my skin is more
copper than any sky will ever be. More metal.
Neptune is bitch-sobbing in my rearview,
and I got my running shoes on and all this sky that’s all mine.

Fuck your order. Fuck your time. I realigned the cosmos.
I chaosed all the hell you have yet to feel. Now all your kids
in the classrooms, they confused. All their clocks:
wrong. They don’t even know what the fuck to do.
They gotta memorize new songs and shit. And the other
planets, I fucked their orbits. I shook the sky. Chaos like
a motherfucker.

It is February 7th, 1979. The sky is blue-gold:
the freedom of possibility.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops. My bad.

© 2015 Fatimah Asghar. “Pluto Shits on the Universe” first appeared in the April 2015 issue of Poetry.

“Pluto Shits on the Universe” is now probably in my top ten favorite poems of all time. I love Asghar’s irreverence here, the way she plays with the multiple meanings of certain words. Consider this part of the poem:

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.

Order here conveys certain ideas singularly and in conjunction with one another:

Order as “a state in which everything is in its correct or appropriate place”.*

Order as “the arrangement or disposition of people or things in relation to each other according to a particular sequence, pattern, or method”.”

Order as “an authoritative command, direction, or instruction”.*

Order as the opposite of Chaos, in Chaos Theory, which is “an interdisciplinary theory and branch of mathematics focusing on the study of chaos: dynamical systems whose apparently random states of disorder and irregularities are actually governed by underlying patterns and deterministic laws that are highly sensitive to initial conditions”.**

*Definition taken from Oxford Languages

**Definition taken from Wikipedia

There is the forced classification, the imposition of hierarchies, the reification of unnatural (human-made) systems, and the stark dismissal of them all.

Chaos like a motherfucker. / And you tried to order me. Called me ninth. There is an acknowledgment of the would-be controlling outside power and its unequivocal rejection. There is the forced classification, the imposition of hierarchies, the reification of unnatural (human-made) systems, and the stark dismissal of them all.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops. My bad. Y’all. That slaps.

Fatimah Asghar Recites Her Poem, “Pluto Shits on the Universe”

You can learn more about Fatimah Asghar and her work at her website. Her debut poetry collection, If They Come for Us: Poems, was published by One World in August 2018 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 18th, 2021

Hymn to Intellectual Beauty by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The awful shadow of some unseen Power 
Floats though unseen among us; visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower;
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

Spirit of BEAUTY, that dost consecrate
With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
Of human thought or form, where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?
Ask why the sunlight not for ever
Weaves rainbows o'er yon mountain-river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
Why fear and dream and death and birth
Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom, why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
To sage or poet these responses given:
Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,
Remain the records of their vain endeavour:
Frail spells whose utter'd charm might not avail to sever,
From all we hear and all we see,
Doubt, chance and mutability.
Thy light alone like mist o'er mountains driven,
Or music by the night-wind sent
Through strings of some still instrument,
Or moonlight on a midnight stream,
Gives grace and truth to life's unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
And come, for some uncertain moments lent.
Man were immortal and omnipotent,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
Thou messenger of sympathies,
That wax and wane in lovers' eyes;
Thou, that to human thought art nourishment,
Like darkness to a dying flame!
Depart not as thy shadow came,
Depart not—lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I call'd on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
I was not heard; I saw them not;
When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing
All vital things that wake to bring
News of birds and blossoming,
Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shriek'd, and clasp'd my hands in ecstasy!

I vow'd that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine: have I not kept the vow?
With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in vision'd bowers
Of studious zeal or love's delight
Outwatch'd with me the envious night:
They know that never joy illum'd my brow
Unlink'd with hope that thou wouldst free
This world from its dark slavery,
That thou, O awful LOVELINESS,
Wouldst give whate'er these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn and serene
When noon is past; there is a harmony
In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
Thus let thy power, which like the truth
Of nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my onward life supply
Its calm, to one who worships thee,
And every form containing thee,
Whom, SPIRIT fair, thy spells did bind
To fear himself, and love all human kind.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 17th, 2021

Signs by Larry Levis

All night I dreamed of my home,
of the roads that are so long
and straight they die in the middle—
among the spines of elderly weeds
on either side, among the dead cats,
the ants who are all eyes, the suitcase
thrown open, sprouting failures.

2.
And this evening in the garden
I find the winter
inside a snail shell, rigid and
cool, a little stubborn temple,
its one visitor gone.

3.
If there were messages or signs,
I might hear now a voice tell me
to walk forever, to ask
the mold for pardon, and one
by one I would hear out my sins,
hear they are not important—that I am
part of this rain
drumming its long fingers, and
of the roadside stone refusing
to blink, and of the coyote
nailed to the fence with its
long grin.

And when there are no messages
the dead lie still—
their hands crossed so strangely
like knives and forks after supper.

4.
I stay up late listening.
My feet tap the floor,
they begin a tiny dance
which will outlive me.
They turn away from this poem.
It is almost Spring.

© 2000 University of Pittsburgh Press. “Signs” is taken from The Selected Levis, which was published in 2000 by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The Selected Levis is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 16th, 2021

First Course in Turbulence: Poems by Dean Young

The Infirmament by Dean Young

An end is always punishment for a beginning.
If you’re Catholic, sadness is punishment
for happiness, you become the bug you squash
if you’re Hindu, a flinty space opens
in your head after a long night of laughter
and wine. For waking there are dreams,
from French poetry, English poetry,
for light fire although sometimes
fire must be punished by light
which is why psychotherapy had to be invented.
A father may say nothing to a son for years.
A wife may keep something small folded deep
in her underwear drawer. Clouds come in
resembling the terrible things we believe
about ourselves, a rock comes loose
from a ledge, the baby just cries
and cries. Doll in a chair,
windshield wipers, staring off
into the city lights. For years
you may be unable to hear the word monkey
without a stab in the heart because
she called you that the summer she thought
she loved you and you thought you loved
someone else and everyone loved
your salad dressing. And the daffodils
come up in the spring and the snow covers
the road in winter and the water covers
the deep trenches in the sea where all the time
the inner stuff of this earth surges up
which is how the continents are made
and broken.

© 1999 Dean Young. “The Infirmament” is taken from Young’s collection First Course in Turbulence: Poems, which was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1999. You can order it here.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 15th, 2021

Notes from the Camoufleurs by Karen Skolfield

The light in Afghanistan
is not the light in Vietnam.
If  vegetation, describe the leaf.

If  rock, its striation. If city, its doorways
and lintels, its hosting of guests.
Its gestures of welcome and warning.

Describe the wattage of searchlights,
the color of streetlamps, the wakefulness
of men. Describe the cigarette’s blooded eye,

a crimp of smoke. Describe evening’s
lift of heat, the riming of sweat.
If olive trees, describe the olives.

How a fig feels in the hand.
Of the women to be outfitted calculate
their curvatures and needs, if they require

more or fewer pockets for pens.
Determine torso length, musculature,
what weapons may be carried; where

the ammo belt sits, if more men
dress right or left, if concertina wire
bares its teeth every three inches or four.

Study how nature tucks itself into grasses,
study the striping of zebras, the panther’s
darkness, a savannah and the jackal

folded within; how a seal’s belly blends
with the sky when viewed from below.
A ptarmigan feathering into snow.

Describe the mission: peacekeeping
or suppression. Shield or storm.
Consider that a pattern may dazzle

or disrupt. Describe the sight lines:
heat-seeking technology versus scopes.
Scopes versus the sharp-eyed.

When a friend is not always a friend.
When a back might be turned. Consider,
at times, how the jaguar wants to be seen.

© 2020 Karen Skolfield. Today’s poem was taken from the May 2020 issue of Poetry.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

Poem for the Day: October 14th, 2021

On Confinement by torrin a. greathouse

I sit across the table from my partner
in the atrium of the psychiatric holding facility

our hands churched into our laps. We are not allowed
to touch. The air between us thick as Perspex.

They tell me all the ways this place resembles a prison.




Everything a sterile white
so clean it could almost disinfect
a memory.




In 1787,
Jeremy Bentham conceived of what would become
the most common prison design:

the panopticon.

Intended to control prisoners through the illusion
that they are always under surveillance.




My partner tells their therapist
they are afraid of taking
their own life,

that they balanced on a building’s edge,
& three officers escort them from the room.



The first cop who ever handcuffed me
[was my father]
left me bound
till my fingers blued.

On the days when I can’t remember
his face,
he becomes the scent of
vodka & zip ties
the sound of
cuffs & a bottle
petaling into blades.




At the booking office they remove my glasses
& the guards blur into a procession
of fathers.




I bring my partner clothes & pads
when the hospital decides to hold them longer,

shove each shirt that could mark them
as queer back inside the closet & shut it [like a mouth].




The word faggot scrawls across
the jail guard’s lips like graffiti.



When I visit my partner
they insist on staying inside

the sky above
the patio cordoned
off  with chicken wire.




I plead my sentence down
in exchange for: my face, my prints, my DNA
& ten years probation.

When I see a cop, I fear
even my breath
criminal

& when my therapist asks me
if  I’m suicidal
I lie.


Perhaps
both are a kind
of  surveillance.




Tear gas floods the street,
sharpens water to a blade
hidden in the orbit of my eye.

& just like this, a squad car
remakes my sadness a weapon.

If my partner snaps cuffs
around my wrists

[& I asked for this]

have they also weaponized
my desire?




A woman in the facility
tells my partner:
I know what you are.
Says:
Sinner.
Says:
Anti-christ.

My partner goads her on,
babbles in false
tongues & is confined
to their room for safety.




Once, a cop dragged me
into an alley &
beat me like he knew
exactly what I was.

What does it say if sometimes
when I ask my partner to hit me

I expect his fist
tightened in their throat, his voice
bruising their tongue?



I am arrested & placed
[in the men’s jail]
in solitary confinement.

They tell me this is protective
custody. That they couldn’t afford
the lawsuit if  I were killed. In this way,
they tell me I am a woman

only when I am no longer
breathing.




The origin of the word prison
is the Latin prehendere — to take.

It follows, then,
that to take your life is to prison
the body beneath dirt.




[Historically,
suicide is a criminal act].




Balanced on a building’s edge, I imagine
some permutation of  this moment

where to fail at death
would be a breach

of my probation.




We both weep for the first time

upon release

when we see the sky.

Pale blue

sliced through

with a single helix

of razor wire & bordered

in sterile white.

© 2018 torrin a. greathouse. Today’s poem first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Poetry.

torrin a. greathouse (she/they) is one of the most innovative and startlingly luminous poets we have writing today. I remember reading “On Confinement” the month it first appeared in Poetry and being arrested by the following lines:

The origin of the word prison

is the Latin prehendere— to take.

It follows, then,

that to take your life is to prison

the body beneath dirt.

Everything in their poem suggests a limitation, a box the world would build around the speaker. Whether the prison is literal (the men’s holding cell in solitary confinement) or metaphorical (the actions and assumptions of people with the authority to categorize and strip away the dignity of the speaker), the effect is the same, which is to police and draw lines of demarcation around the ways in which marginalized people, especially in this case people who are queer and disabled, are allowed to express their humanity and exercise agency.

“On Confinement” also brings into stark relief the Othering Trans* people undergo when they try to access basic social services. Any facility serving members of the general public ought to be devoid of the homo- and transphobia greathouse talks about. Historically, the Trans body is often a site of both state-sanctioned and private violence, and for all our high-handed talk of equality and progressiveness, this is still largely true today. Anyone able to bear witness to these acts of dehumanization and look away from them places their seal of approval on the acts themselves. And shame on them. Shame on a world that makes someone live in constant fear of violence because of who they are and calls it justice. Shame on all of us.

*Trans is an umbrella term for anyone whose gender identity and/or expression in any way deviates from what was assigned to them at birth. Trans people may identify as transgender, gender fluid, gender-expansive, bigender, agender, gender non-conforming, nonbinary, etc. These are just a few of the identifying words Trans people may or may not use to express their identity(ies), but regardless of terminology all humans deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is NEVER okay to deliberately misgender someone or use their dead name.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.