To Antigone, A Dispatch

Valzhyna Mort

copyright ©2021

          allegro for shooing off the police
          adagio for washing the body
          scherzo for soft laughter and tears
          rondo for covering the body with good earth  

Antigone, dead siblings
are set.
As for the living —
pick me for a sister.

I, too, love a proper funeral.
Drag, Dig and Sisters’ Pop-Up Burial.

I make the rounds of graves
keeping up
my family’s
top-notch properties.

On a torture instrument
called an accordion
I stretch my bones
into fingers of a witch.

My guts have been emptied
like bellows
for the best sound.

Once we settle your brother,
I’ll show your forests
of the unburied dead.

We’ll clean the way only two sisters
can clean a house:

no bones scattered like dirty socks,
no ashes at the bottom of kneecaps.

Why bicker with husbands about dishes
when we’ve got
mountains of skulls to shine?

Labor and retribution we’ll share, not girlie secrets.

Brought up by dolls and monuments,
I have the bearings
of a horse and bitch,
I’m cement in tears.

You can spot my graves from afar,
marble like newborn skin.

Here, history comes to an end
like a movie
with rolling credits of headstones,
with nameless credits of mass graves.

Every ditch, every hill is suspect.

Pick me for a sister, Antigone.
In this suspicious land
I have a bright shovel of a face.


Yusuf Saadi

copyright ©2021

We were busy worshipping
words. Shipping worlds

through string. We held eardrums
to heartbeats to confirm

we were still alive. Someone unchained
the sun from its orbit. We watched it drift

like a curious child beyond the Oort cloud. Dimming
until it was another star in the night’s freckles

and even the day lost its name. We looked
at our hands with unfamiliarity. Trying to understand

the opaqueness of texture. Our moulting bones
discarded. Our new elbows reptilian.

The latest language stripped of meter,
rhyme, beauty. We were warned: there are no straight lines in nature.

Women sang new myths. Men planted
numbers in the soil to see if the fruits

could solve our problems. We invented
new gods and crooned when we remembered

how to brush each other’s hair. Music played
in a distant never. Insects danced

in a different hemisphere of our brain
or of the earth. We often tried to look up,

but we could only see our feet,
alien and hairless.

From The Dyzgraphxst

Canisia Lubrin

copyright ©2021

Cansia Lubrin

Here—beginning the unbeginning
owning nothing but that wounding
sense of waking to speak as I would

after the floods, then, after women unlike
Eve giving kind to the so-and-so, trying
to tell them it is time to be unnavigable,

after calling them back to what
the tongue cuts speaking the thing of
them rolled into stone

speaking I after all, after all theories
of abandonment priced and displayed,
the word was a moonlit knife

with those arrivants
lifting their hems to dance, toeless
with the footless child they invent


Joseph Dandurand

copyright ©2021

If we talked about the past
we would say how strong our people
were and how they had survived
the constant rains and the great floods
and how they lived in the ground
and how they, like us, took the fish
throughout the year and how it fed
their families. And if we talk about
how they would war against other
river and island tribes who would
come upriver to try to take our people
back with them, we would say
we had great warriors who would wait
for the canoes to come to shore
where we would club them to death.

But today we do not use violence
to survive and we have become quiet
and accepting of our neighbors though
in the beginning we were almost wiped out
as sickness came with the people on ships
who wanted to trade and cheat us of our fish.
That sickness nearly wiped out all river people
but today we are still here, and we survive.

Our children have grown up with loss
and alcohol and drugs and they too fight
for their lives in a world that does not
seem to care about them but we try
to teach them the lessons from a long time
before there was anything written down.
In our ceremonies we repeat those words
and our children will also repeat those words
and so we the river people are still here.
We are all the silent warriors and we say
enough is enough and our young they pick up
the drum and they sing new songs
and they stand and shout to the world
that we are still here and will never leave
this simple island on the great river where
we still take the fish and yes, we still live
where we have been for thousands of years
and we are the ancestors of our future as
a child picks up a drum and begins to sing
a new song given to him from long ago.

Language (from Obit)

Victoria Chang

copyright ©2020

Victoria Chang

Language—died, brilliant and beautiful
on August 1, 2009 at 2:46 p.m. Lover
of raising his hand, language lived
a full life of questioning. His favorite
was twisting what others said. His
favorite was to write the world in black
and white and then watch people try
read the words in color. Letters
used to skim my father’s brain before
they let go. Now his words are blind.
Are pleated. Are the dispatcher, the
dispatches, and the receiver. When
my mother was dying, I made everyone
stand around the bed for what would
be the last group photo. Some of us
smiled. Because dying lasts
until it stops. Someone said,
Take a few. Someone said, Say
cheese. Someone said, Thank you.
fails us. In the way that
breaking an arm means an arm’s bone
can break but the arm itself
can’t break
unless sawed or cut. My mother
speak but her eyes were the
only ones that were wide open.

Dream of a Language that Speaks

by Michael Palmer

copyright ©Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Michael Palmer

Hello Gozo, here we are,
the spinning world, has

it come this far?
Hammering things, speeching them,

nailing the anthrax
to its copper plate,

matching the object to its name,
the star to its chart.

(The sirens, the howling machines,
are part of the music it seems

just now, and helices of smoke
engulf the astonished eye;

and then our keening selves, Gozo,
whirled between voice and echo.)

So few and so many,
have we come this far?

Sluicing ink onto snow?
I’m tired, Gozo,

tired of the us/not us,
of the factories of blood,

tired of the multiplying suns
and tired of colliding with

the words as they appear
without so much as a “by your leave,”

without so much as a greeting.
The more suns the more dark –

is it not always so –
and in the gathering dark

Ghostly Tall and Ghostly Small
making their small talk

as they pause and they walk
on a path of stones,

as they walk and walk,
skeining their tales,

testing the dust,
higher up they walk –

there’s a city below,
pinpoints of light –

high up they walk,
flicking dianthus, mountain berries,

turk’s-caps with their sticks.
Can you hear me? asks Tall.

Do you hear me? asks Small.
Questions pursuing question.

And they set out their lamp
a      mid the stones.

for Yoshimasu Gozo

From Company of Moths, by Michael Palmer

About My Mother

by Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

copyright ©2014 by Adam Zagajewski / Translation copyright © 2018 by Clare Cavanagh.

I could never say anything about my mother:
how she repeated, you’ll regret it someday,
when I’m not around anymore, and how I didn’t believe
in either “I’m not” or “anymore,”
how I liked to watch as she read bestsellers,
always turning to the last chapter first,
how in the kitchen, convinced it’s not
her proper place, she made Sunday coffee,
or, even worse, filet of cod,
how she studied the mirror while expecting guests,
making the face that best kept her
from seeing herself as she was (I take
after her here and in a few other weaknesses),
how she went on at length about things
that weren’t her strong suit and how I stupidly
teased her, for example, when she
compared herself to Beethoven going deaf,
and I said, cruelly, but you know he
had talent, and how she forgave everything
and how I remember that, and how I flew from Houston
to her funeral and couldn’t say anything
and still can’t.

An Enemy Comes Down the Hill

Fady Joudah, translating from the Arabic written by Ghassan Zaqtan

copyright ©Translation copyright © 2012 by Fady Joudah

When he comes down
or is seen coming down
when he reveals to us that he is coming down.

The waiting and silence

his entire lack
when he hearkens before the plants.

His caution when he comes down
like one postponed by a hush,
and by his being not “us”
and not “here”
death begins.

He bought a flower
nothing more, a flower
that has no vase and leaves no will.

From the hill, he can spot the military checkpoint, the paratroopers,
he can spot the squatters, the mountain edges, and the only road
where their feet will leave a print in the rocks, mud, and water.

Losses also will appear from the hill
abandoned without effort.

And the fragility in shadow,
the Jewish man with a long mustache
who resembles the dead Arabs here.

From the mountain edges, all the caves will appear peaceful
and the road will seem as it were.

While he was coming down
the caves continued to stare
and blink in the cold.

Manipulating Manifesting
(Re)generating Landscapes

Abigail Chabitnoy

copyright ©2019 Abigail Kerstetter

I buried my bones.
              No trace was left.

I buried my bones and the landscape
              became settled in [its] disturbances.

There’s no telling where the hand that digs might
              unearth the outline of a dwelling place,
                            the shape of ivory in the process [of]

becoming human.
              It is not evident.

I buried my bones in the fault
              [where] they were of little consequence,
                            more matters to settle

in the end.
              The land remembered only now.

I want to live somewhere old
              in the earth. On the water
                            now there are many boats, [but] the vermin

they are hunting [is] dead
              with metal feet. His pelt
                            [is] already sinking out of reach.

Old in the water. Let me sink
              [mine] in enough earth to bury [me].

Mother, it was my fault. I buried each of my other selves
              until I couldn’t see [ ] the earth was full.
              I was born(e) in this wound mother.

Singing made i[t] so. Steel singing. Destined
              men singing mercantile songs, manifesting
              swindling songs.

Singing say you see. Singing beautiful
              spacious skies, singing
              the brave in d(r)ead silence reposes.

You sang this land for me, (m)other. Each night
              I must find a new way to lay these arms
              stiff under the weight [of] my body.

I don’t know what I expected but at length I found myself a loan. I found
myself a part in a room of my own making, susceptible to drowning, to cave-ins.
I couldn’t hold a shape my own among so many bones and matter besides.
The field turned relic into me.

                            like this, Apaq?
can I wear these faces? which [way]
              shall I bend these bones?
does my skin show [through] these furs?
              do my metal feet b(ear) too much weight?
can I bend my arms in light of mo(u)rning?
                            can I bend them in name for what I (k)now believe?

Return every (last) bone to the l[and]
              I will shape my body in the sound [of]
                            waves breaking the shore

[if] singing made it so
              these days will not be many

I wonder if you hear me, Apaq.
              I wonder if I say your [right] words.

Michael, will you row the boat (a)shore and dig a womb-shaped home
              with my arms
              for your arms
              for all the world worn arms

[until] the waters b(r)each our skin and skin these bones
              in their weight
              in the sand
              to begin again without blood in the print?

The Good Companion

David Harsent

copyright ©David Harsent, 2007

Laid-up with all about me
a man could want: a stack of the cross-
hatched notebooks I always use,
a Stabilo pen,
a brand-new thriller that famously stole its plot
from The Spanish Tragedy, vodka,

a pineapple tub
of ice to sap (a little) the bright
fever that loosened my teeth, so I half-expected
to see them drop to the quilt
like sticky Chiclets,
laid-up like that, alone

you might say, but well provided for,
I felt a sleep coming on, so thick
I might have been sleeved in darkness; and next
fell into a dream quicker
than my eyes could close: in fact
I’d already declared for Bel-imperia

and was just getting down
past the damp in the crook of her knee
to those salty, pink petals
of crêpe-de-chine,
when a voice I recognised
had me up and out of there and back to my bed –

a hot, synaptic zip
that almost made me believe I’d woken up
until I saw the tattoo:
a letter to every finger neatly between
the knuckle joints,
as he collared the bottle and turned

a page or two of my notebooks. ‘Just here:
is this lorel or Lorelei? – each syllable sharp
as the detonations in ice
when you pour on vodka – ‘It’s plain
what’s fretting you, but look,
you’ll know it sure enough

when someone you claim to recognise climbs up
out of your bones
and legs it for the door
without so much as a kiss-
my-arse-goodbye (on a darkening day of “rain
moving in from the west”) or even a shred of song.’