when we speak
try to repeat a phrase
& not find music
the monotonic tongue too
is an exercise in sound
fire, a kind of salve
or slave to the mouth
the child prophet who burned
his tongue & still led his people
out of bondage
or another apocryphal story,
the man in chains who reads
the dictionary & bursts into flames
perfected pitch – divined improvidence –
polemic & polytechnic – the politics
of noise –
even the phrase ‘speech impediment’
carries its own kind music. even the phrase ‘warfare’
its marauding baggage
its stuttering thunderous corpse
oh sound, the simple tonal space
between play & plate glass
between bacchius & battle-axe
if only my people realized
we haven’t been promised
a homeland, rather, a song.
that jerusalem isn’t a place,
merely a series of sounds
that can written down
& taken anywhere.
odysseus strangled a man in the belly
of a wood horse who thought he heard
his wife screaming, the french resistance
fed infants opiate laced breast milk,
josh & i held each other trembling
below the stairs
as my brother & his friends rampaged
through the house, liquor rampaging
through them. silence is what comes
at the end of all our loud suffering
or during it. the film does not beg
the organ’s accompaniment.
my first time for money i was so quiet
he could hear coins falling inside me.
might have mistaken my blood
for a symbol :: crashing.
what i’m arguing for is the impermanence
of beauty – hand unstuffing the carcass
of sawdust – when my body is in the ground
decomposing & disgusting,
who will pay to sleep with me then?
Sam Sax is a fellow at The Michener Center for Writers & the associate poetry editor
for Bat City Review. He’s the two time Bay Area Grand Slam Champion & author
of the chapbooks, A Guide to Undressing Your Monsters (Button Poetry, 2014),
and sad boy / detective (winner of the 2014 Black River Chapbook Prize). His poems
have been published or are forthcoming from Boston Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review,
The Minnesota Review, The Normal School, Rattle, Vinyl, & other journals.