Solve for X

Oliver de la Paz

And in the outer world, the first, something smooth and wet. An
     X
skims across the tops of the crests in a succession of skips. The
     longest
holds its space in the air, pauses, then descends into what is a cool
     sleep.

X and all the faces of backlit animals gaze downward at you. Their
     curious engulfed
silhouettes. A spasm of radio and the accident of understanding
what it means to be X. What it means to be held and kissed and
     gibbered to
as though you were something cast away and suddenly,
     miraculously, returned.
 

 

 

 

 

More by Oliver de la Paz

Dear Empire [these are your temples]

Dear Empire,



These are your temples. There are rows of stone countenances, pillar after pillar. As if walking through a forest filled with alabaster heads: here, the frown. The gaze. The luminous stare.

Smoke from the incense curls, shapes itself against the archways, rubs against the grooves of the columns. Only a few men press their heads to their hands.

Outside, archeologists excavate a stone torso. Bound in coils of fraying rope, it rises before us, pulled upwards by a backhoe. Its form momentarily hides the sun, though as it sways, the light strikes our eyes. Saying yes. Saying no.

Diaspora 2

The way is written in the dark:

it has steel in it, something metallic, a gun,

a mallet, a piece of machinery—

something cold like the sea, something,

 

a nervous shudder. If it

were to go on, the next stanza

would snuff out sound.
 
It would stand in a forest

that cannot bring you faith and a woman

carrying a basket of glass jars gives one
 
to you. They carry dying fireflies. No,

they’re dried hands holding lit matches

and she tells you it’s your light, it’s your fucking light.

Diaspora Sonnet 25

The planet pulls our bodies through
the year. Delivers us, headlong,

into the tears in currents. The ebbs
and flows of blood in chambers,

bombastic and flooded with unremembered
names. Neighbors bourne feet first

through their door arches.
Down the corridors, lonesome

and lost. Their voices suture
the silence behind them and

the little song pulsing its staccato 
cannot explain the day and the day

and the day, like an arm and then 
another pulled through a sleeve.

Related Poems

On. On. Stop. Stop.

In the old recording of the birthday party,
the voices of the living and the dead
instruct twelve absent friends
on the reliable luxury of gratitude.
The celebrated one hands out presents.
The dead dog barks once. We
take one another’s hands and follow their lead,
past the garden wall, out to the land
still stripped by winter. Those gone
do not usurp those here. We keep
the warning close, the timbre of their voices
mingling with the sounds of traffic
going much faster to its destinations.
Is it the size or the scale of the past
on the small reels of the cassette?
Someone gives her a new pot, which,
she exclaims, is too great a luxury for her.
Someone’s missing who can convert
the currencies. The old treasure
was dropped in the furrows
to await spring, with rings and pennies
and florins and other denominations
from those pockets and fingers.

 

About this poem:

"I was cleaning out some old boxes and found a cassette tape labeled with my grandmother’s name and a date, but had no idea what it was. I slipped it into the machine and switched it on, and heard what was a recording of her eightieth birthday party, during which she both gave and received presents—and there, suddenly present, voices of the living and the dead filled the room, all of us in a simultaneous moment, my relatives in a house in the Dutch countryside in 1988, amidst the noise of city traffic in 2012. The title is borrowed from one of Samuel Beckett’s radio plays, Embers (with its first injunction to turn the radio on)."

Saskia Hamilton