Paris (Bastille Day)

The Iowa Review - - JOHN FREEMAN -

Every­body is watch­ing the doors to par­adise, honey pour­ing bleach into words: this is not a truck, it is a weapon, curvet­ting, ar­roy­oing. A flood di­vert­ing a river finds a dark va­cancy in the faces of our morn­ing. This is not a hos­pi­tal, it is a tar­get. Seven thou­sand killed on land mines alone. Light can be both a par­ti­cle and a wave. I feel the bound­aries of th­ese sto­ries, like basalt in hand. They leave a trace. The rock sub­merged in the pond, bends wa­ter around it, like the re­lent­less, inar­tic­u­late un­der ache of an­guish, which cul­mi­nates in vi­o­lence. How we rage to cre­ate, to name, to remap the world. It is what the liv­ing do, even as the sun we see is less than half the di­am­e­ter of a dime held at arm’s length. We must turn from glory lest it blind us. Er­mine, ocotillo, paloverde, mesquite, sand ver­bana, camel­lia, brit­tle­brush, chokecherry, helle­borine or­chids. Once we poured honey into the names. They were ig­nored by the cut­throat trout, nest­ing plovers, the wa­ter ouzel, black tad­poles, squaw­fish, Ra­zor­backs, wolver­ines, red-breasted mer­gansers, long-necked pin­tails, wid­geons, and bur­bot. We live in the dusk lands of lan­guage. This is not a guest, this is an alien. This is not a this is This. Re­mem­ber the bet­ter names of the world. Hear the long high whis­tle that sings through the gap been what is and what we call it. Let us not mis­take that song for any­thing but a warn­ing.

“Coins” and “Paris (Bastille Day)” are from Maps. Copy­right © 2017 by John Free­man. Reprinted with the per­mis­sion of The Per­mis­sion Com­pany, Inc., on be­half of Copper Canyon Press, www.cop­per­canyon­press.org.

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