We Write with Our Bodies
Among the choice of useless things, which do we give our minds to?
The bodies around the table can’t imagine not talking,
and even though I hush them I agree, their every word
is lovely and necessary, no matter how dumb and desperate,
I don’t know them and will never see most of them
again in this life but we manage an agreeable circle,
they answer my questions, they argue and laugh
and even the spectacular red-haired girl
and the smart dour guy at the end of the table
seem un-cruel and almost pleasant, not the kind
to drive more than one or two kids to tears or worse.
So when we’ve had our laughs and I’ve tried
to fit “spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling”
and “small machine made of words” together for them
and they’ve moaned and grumbled with the strain
of thinking outside their tender young beings,
they ask for paper and bend over it as if they believed
they could write their way out of anything,
they scrawl and scratch, the chairs tink and clink
as they shift, and the soft murmur of pens is like bees
in the pear tree, like water over stones, like wine
poured in a goblet. This is our body, poured out
free and dark and precious. Take it, take and drink.
First Notes on Border Crossings
Early images: distant horses, a loud Ethiopian restaurant
with backless stool. Tales of giant salamanders hidden
behind moist glass walls, of words abandoned in flame.
I grew up far from any border. I have more privilege than power.
The DMZ between the Koreas has become a lush natural landscape,
250 klicks long and 14 inches wide. Windsor, says the guy
from Detroit, is America Lite. I have been there, but never
to Mexico, much less for a six-week motorcycle tour. Truly
crossing borders means embracing error, at least your own.
Without anxiety, no one learns a language or another place.
What if the language of home is foreign to you? Could I spend
the rest of the meeting in silence, like a Quaker or a potted plant?
I want to be known without the trouble of knowing. No one else
can say who anyone is, or where you are from. We’re always
talking back to Saussure, chanting, praying, casting spells,
in the labyrinthine lobby or on the dirt floor where the stone
rolls beneath me like a trick. In Polish death and laughter rhyme,
and the poem disintegrates as death does its business.
Rhyme makes a marriage, or a secret, guilt-drenched affair
that makes us rethink everything. The poet of the wetlands
imagines himself as a slug, as moss on the broken wall.
It is our nature to make a paradise of the other shore.
JEFF GUNDY's sixth book of poems, Somewhere Near Defiance, is just out from Anhinga, as is his fourth prose book, Songs from an Empty Cage: Poetry, Mystery, Anabaptism, and Peace (Cascadia). Other new work is in The Sun, The Georgia Review, Christian Century, Nimrod, and Cincinnati Review. He teaches at Bluffton University and plans to spend his coming sabbatical teaching at LCC International University in Lithuania.