from ossuary II

by Dionne Brand

copyright ©2010 by Dionne Brand

to undo, to undo and undo and undo this infinitive     
of arrears, their fissile mornings,     
their fragile, fragile symmetries of gain and loss     

Notes on the Poem

Sometimes a seemingly tiny detail in a poem's composition can add a startling new dimension to the piece, or can deepen what is already evident. Sometimes that fine detail can even inform an entire poetry collection. Such is the case with Dionne Brand's "Ossuaries", which already has layers of storytelling, craft, cadence and imagery to richly commend it. Brand's long poem narrates the mysteriously peripatetic life of Yasmine, a fugitive who has been the victim but also the perpetrator of violence and strange dealings. It's telling that the title of the collection and of the chapters of her story are ossuaries, which are buildings or receptacles serving as the final resting place for human skeletal remains. Even more telling, then, is the subtle typographical detail that introduces each demarcation in Yasmine's story. Each opening stanza is right aligned. In languages where text is read right-to-left, such as Arabic and Hebrew, flush right alignment is common. It's a more unusual layout for text in English, where it might be used to set off a small amount of introductory or quoted text. Is the opening text in each segment of "Ossuaries" a cryptic epigraph? Is it meant to somehow preface, introduce or label each section, like an inscription on an actual ossuary? Whatever its purpose, that intriguing touch manages to cast anew the meaning of each ossuary segment.

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