Echo of Origin

wedded sepal

               lupine pearl strung


with toothhole                    petaled tendons


pelvis split

in ardor’s labor                 swirling blacksmoke

             coins in the sea

the eyes                           hawkmoth


a bible palmed across                  granite telling


gin river parable                            the muddy

              waters rising over


rotted apples                    liver carved


             by eponymous



Copyright © 2022 by John James. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 7, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“‘Echo of Origin’ responds to Roland Barthes’s claim, in Mythologies, that ‘In wrestling,’— intellectual grappling—‘the gesture severs every parasitical meaning’ and produces ‘a pure and full signification.’ ‘Such emphasis,’ he claims, ‘is nothing but the popular and ancestral image of the perfect intelligibility of reality.’ I wanted to imagine a language that recalls that ‘perfect intelligibility’ by severing once-arbitrary signifiers from the system of signs that burdens them with meaning. Because we live in such a system, however, there is no pure signification. Instead, the poem forges a stream of disparate signifiers, firing at each other in loose association.”
John James