After the Words
after Juan Kasari’s photograph “Perfect Model for the Society, 1”
I used to pretend
It was more than beauty
I was after the words
Now ask where
Are the yellows & blues taste
Of night where graffiti
Concrete & chain link
I breathe now
The crackling air
Lecture 2: The Use of Literature
The man at the lectern sighs, runs his hands through his wild hair and says, “This is very sort of a weak kind of a thing, as opposed to what is on the handout I've given you.” Directing the audience to the handout, he continues, “You can read it or not,” then proceeds to read it to us. I mull over the proposition that all words are things and that things are words, yes, but also something else. Meanwhile, the man at the lectern shows a film. He says, “In this film, well, I'll just show you the clip, which will sort of express what happens.” What happens is the placement of a severed female head onto a plate. The six females in the audience are as quiet as six severed heads on as many plates.
I begin to grow dimly aware of myself and my limitations. The man at the lectern says, “In the search for meaning, there is a horizon of unreachable wholeness.” I begin to feel like a vanishing horizon. I visualize a vanishing horizon, a corona, an aura, a halo. I think of the moon, of skin drained of its blood, of clusters of stars on a cold night in December in a gunmetal sky. I begin tasting the words that make me a thing. They taste like salt.
The man at the lectern declares: “It is only a thing if you use it for something.” A woman in the third row nods in agreement or perhaps to assure him she is listening. She looks very tired and I wonder if she will go back upstairs to her office or go home after this, and what she will do at home, if there is a child to put to bed or a cat or a grown up person to feed, and if she will listen to music after the work is done, and what kind. I snap back to attention. I wonder at the tools at my disposal, at the possibility of transcendence or beauty in such a place. I chew on that word—beauty—until I imagine the taste of sugar, until I hear applause, feel the lights go on, hear someone ask, “Are there no questions?”
Being as endless splitting of one term to find the next.
Being as a classroom wherein I face forward with gum in my mouth.
Being as my whole self crystallized into the sharp end of a pencil.
Being as witness.
Being as I have lost him/her as you have.
Being as accessory to loss.
Being as the shoes I bought and changed into on the ivied steps outside the auditorium. Being as listening for the love I thought new shoes might bring.
Being as the heart driving the concept into what we can identify as blood, beating.
Being as splitting into the next heart and splitting again.
Being as a quavering note escaping the brick-walled auditorium.
Being as the foreheads I have kissed.
Jaime Brunton is the author, with Russell Evatt, of The Future Is a Faint Song (Dream Horse Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, The Cincinnati Review, DIAGRAM, Hotel Amerika, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. Brunton holds a PhD in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.