Elegy for the Disappeared
Though no word called me, I looked again.
Each wave of supposition hammered against the black wall.
Sometimes meaning, like an expiration date, is blurred.
Then emptiness takes a bow, extending its invitation.
Like that interval between the performance and the bravos.
What was there before it dropped away? Was there ever anything beyond this lingering, felt presence?
Erosional debris piles up in a rift valley.
As the world pours into me, I pour into the broken word.
Suggestions, you come to realize, will be dispensed in installments. The poor and the brutalized. A prayer bruise.
If letters act as synapses, you become a neurotransmitter, conducting the message between them. Trans latus. Carried across. A form of translation.
But what detonation blew these letters apart?
Caesura: a gap between words. Mind the gap.
Yet it’s precisely what’s missing that beckons us.
When we read, what transpires but a yearning between letters?
The b is all that’s left of bitterness. The p introduces pain.
Like opening the door only to be handed a summons.
Where the house previously stood, now a wind blows.
Though its first and last plank held, the bridge plunged into the ravine. Given up, left behind with a terrible longing.
Or thrown overboard and drowned in the middle passage.
The p and b are testaments of survivors.
The bodies of letters lying apart from their trauma.
Cells on opposite sides of a wound draw near and begin to merge. Phantom limb. Though what is absent speaks.
As I imagine what is nowhere to be found, my own substance grows porous, my life more elusive.
A glyph, a provocation, and you respond. Art blossoms in the mind. Hey abyss, you still don’t possess all of me.
Bringing about this call and response.
How to cure a phantom limb with a mirror? Let yourself see what is there.
Copyright © 2020 by Forrest Gander and Kay Rosen. Originally published with the Shelter in Poems initiative on poets.org.