The Iowa Review

Paris (Bastille Day)


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.coppercany­

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