[by way of entry you sit with an object]

by way of entry you sit with an object, hold it in your hands, rub your fingers across its grooves. you close your eyes, not so much an act of faith as it is an attempt to focus the senses, to see what knowing might be made available through a haptic relationship. it is only a wallet. it is empty. Reginald Jerry Clark would leave this for Regina, she in turn would leave this for you. she teaches you not to speak ill of the dead, to not speak of them at all, so there is no ceremony around the absence. 

a black rail worker was born in 1913, served as a porter for The Great Northern Railroad for 25 years and retired without pension. he died some time later. in 1913 there was a rail worker, a porter he served on The Great Northern Railroad and died some time after retirement. a black rail worker died and came back a porter, he retired without pension he died. a black worker was born a porter for the railroad he died and came back as a quarter mile of track. a black rail worker worked and railed and died and retirement was always later, later. 

you work with words, which unlike the wallet, is not a material you touch, but you wonder if in reordering them you might disrupt what is presupposed, if you might work something other than emptiness from their grooves. you’ve only failed at this. you are not yet a skilled enough practitioner of failure, and so you keep reordering them, to see what casts a shadow.

Copyright © 2023 by Chaun Webster. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 12, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.