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Christopher DeWeese

from The Confessions

I was a garden maze,
an anxious geometry
of dead-ends and topiary

intercepting formal space
to create a sudden, floral privacy

for those cousins who needed me
to hide themselves inside.

Lost, gardeners buried themselves
between my reaches,
yelling horses and then elephants.

After a few days,
they ploughed homesteads.

In this way, my veins became full of dancing.

Balloonists saw what I couldn’t,
paths strewn like the scattered pages
of an etiquette book

left to instruct descendents
in all the most important things:

how to eat fish with a general,
how you impersonate a window.

from The Confessions

I was a living insignia,
a photographic reproduction
of the president’s face
arranged from twenty-thousand soldiers,

a souvenir all metaphor
just like any souvenir sold to enlisted men:

a commemorative heart,
a necklace of spent ammunition,
an autographed tourniquet.

Silence overtook the staging area
and then extended it

like the chase scene
that takes place mid-air
during a staring contest.

Trumpets completed the fixed perspective.

We are at war, the men reminded themselves,
each platoon frozen
into a jawbone, a hairline,
a famous birthmark.

We could march like this; it would look amazing
a general dictated to his aide,
the big cigar.

from The Confessions

I was an optimistic linguist
constructing an international auxiliary language
to foster mutual aid and understanding

through the anguished forests
and quarrelsome districts
of a world broken into irregular tongues.

I thought grown-ups were omnipotent,
so I grew up whispering.

I called myself Doctor Hopeful,
I was so certain I could destroy
all the world’s evils

by making one language universal
and thereby opposing
every form of nationalism.

The language of spies,
fascist regimes proclaimed it,
burning not only the dictionaries
that hid my words in their pages

but even the breath proclaiming
what I had tried to say
and then the lungs.

Christopher DeWeese is the author of The Black Forest (Octopus Books, 2012). His poems have recently appeared in Boston Review, Crazyhorse, and Tin House. He teaches at Smith College and UMass Amherst.