Issue 223, Winter 2017
The masters are yet dead. Wanting to be human,
I tried to rewrite The Waste Land. The canon’s reach
casts ruinous light. The masters’ pens breach
this page where, above, my own hand spectates. Babylon
risen, exorcism in reverse, whose nature upended now?
If I remember my own name, then I can ego
my way through this crowd of shadows
that cross the bridge of my back mid bow.
I slept in the Fifth House of Modernism,
beneath stars that offered no light—dust
full of fear, my own dead skin encrusting
room corners and my mind in a schism
between image and luck. When I awoke,
the empire rose in me and I was risen
from its dead letters to the letter, chiseled
by my own invisibility, this war between smoke
and reflection, between self versus self conniving
in the longest hall of my fear to remain there.
Many doors scraped open, their alabaster
knobs ghost-turned while voices as convincing
as a mother slipped out. I looked into one room
and found a window broken into a smile, wind
whistling Confederately through the glass teeth and
tell me how I grinned and hollered back a tune:
“Away! Away! I wish the masters dead.” To be freed
I tried to revise The Waste Land but blacker,
where Margaret Garner speaks to Margaret Walker
on a barge crossing the Mississippi River. I see
the aftermath of this convenience, slow
in the river mud fondling the delay.
They will make it across. They will pray.
They will drown beneath what they know,
that the living have undone so many
and the river’s dark portion was the color
of a baby’s dried blood, the neck wound dolorous
in its grin-shaped curve, another mangled
bridge into history. Who could name the salve
between two women death had undone,
one woman so sure of whom she’d undone:
Garner the master. Garner the slave.