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CONJUGATION

A bringing                       across: to bear, to burden.  We are

only land                    locked  in  the   strictest   sense,   with

strict                      being  a measure in  mountain mass.    To

burn.                  Thieves, in tiredness,

in thirst,                                                       have stolen

                                                               vowels

from  death,  from   frozen  solid.     They  will  be  returned

only once           we accept the pluperfect.

What false               stepping stones  these consonants

offer.                               A source language

laden coarse with silt,                with a slitting of the tongue:

to turn, to tarnish.                         What has happened once

can continue  to happen: to hunt, to haunt.

The density of our decibel                 will not float.

A   language  with  three  tenses  is  a  body    without sinew,

silence,                                                                      or snare.

 

 

ROVNĚ A DOPRAVA

Beneath a row of witches, she sweeps

the sidewalk in front of her souvenir

shop. I’ve wandered

past my map’s reach.

 

                                     We are alone

            with the cobblestones and cold

light of streetlamps sweating

copper shadows on our faces.  

                                            Her back bent

more fantastic than the gnarled handle

in her grasp. Each evening breeze breathes

flight

 

into the pulpit of puppets above.

                                                     I am not

afraid of women made mythical and immoral,

                                     spinsters with snarled spines.

 

            I fear instead the loud and taunting thoughts

of the lost, those who cannot find home

 

without being shown where to go.

                                                Promiňte, I ask

permission to break the silence

the street has laced

                                    like a shawl around her shoulders.

Kde je metrem?

 

She answers in a spell of syllables indiscernible to my ears.

 

Finally she casts a glance far into the dark.

                                                Rovně a doprava.

            Doprava, I repeat, my tongue an apprentice

in unfamiliar sounds.

                                    Díky, I offer.

Hezký večer into the hazy

navy of the night. Doprava. Straight

                                                    and to the right.

 

 

COMMONLY MISSPELLED WORDS

vocabulary: a splintered womb and the dream

            in which i am a wolf, stomach stone-

            laden and sinking. this is not to drown;

            this is to reconnect to some solid thing.

 

 

                                                            :handwriting

holding my mother’s face,

i smooth away the shimmer

from her lids, shadow staining

my thumbs like bruised moth wings.

 

 

semantic: what a lazy metaphor—this bridge—

                as if one thing can always reach

                another with the easy fate of a few

                footfalls.

 

 

                                                :accent

tonight i miss two men,

who are the same man. once,

he pronounced “burial” like “burrow.”

once, he taught me to say “depleted” in a way

my fingers could understand. once,

 

 

comma splice: it is simple to mistake

                        hibernation for a funeral.

                        when this happens, say “river”

                        instead of “pride.” orient grief

                        as north. proceed from there.