Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Good Omen by Lewis Warsh - NPM8

We study other languages, the signs and mirrors,
so that we can inhabit the conversations of people
we've never met. Lava comes down from the side of the
mountain: we say lava, in our original tongue, and
no one knows what we mean. The fire brigade is
waiting for the flames to die out at the end of
the tunnel. I see you, cornered at the edge of a
sentence, like a German verb, immune to criticism,
open to judgement, a blue shadow igniting a wall
of flame. In the empty restaurant you say: "My
tongue is on fire," but the only lights are the
flickering candles on every table. The contortionist
brought the audience to its feet, but we weren't
watching. We decided we could only do one thing
at a time without becoming an object of concern for
those who were observing us from a distance. Nights
without sleep, endless stamina, a hundred laps,
the long days ahead filled with words like "opposite
attract" spelled out in billboard letters across
the horizon. This is the correct spelling, the
proper verb ending, the appropriate declension.
We can tutor each other at odd hours while nervously
fingering the buttons and zippers of our shirts and
blouses. This flame is for safekeeping, the tail
of a comet as it crosses the sky.

Warsh, Lewis. "Good Omen". The Body Electric: America's Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review. Berg, Stephen, David Bonanno and Arthur Vogelsang, Eds. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. 722-3.

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