A Valediction For When Words Fail

Michael Gushue

Excerpted from Pachinko Mouth, Anomalous Press Chapbook Contest Notable

click here to read about the full project

It’s wrong to say I know what you are thinking,
but it’s wrong to think you know what I’m saying,

because language is a blunt instrument.
It’s a game of Battleship where we float

rules and then torpedo and submerge them,
shelling each other, shrapnel raining down.

All the pachinko sounds that spill out of us,
the clicks, obstruents, sonorants, implosives—

what in all that downpour can lend a hand?
All you words—you bare ruined birds on a wire—

threadbare knickknacks of sign—I look forward
to your failure to communicate—and

not because silence is golden—that means
only a miser would be happy with it—

but because sometimes it’s either sink or swim,
better to be marooned than to be blue

in the face trying to get what can’t be got.
Do we ever really know what to say?

It’s time to have the flow of logos stop.
Let’s let our tongues be still and have our hands

speak up. Our nerve endings want to be heard
by touch, our oldest, deepest conversation.

Hand talks to skin, and skin answers back,
the verb of hipbone, clauses of thigh and neck,

a clavicle’s exclamation—these haptic
cadences are the lines of our bodies,

and, like copper wires that carry spark,
we become incandescent with communion.

That glow, that indigo fire, it’s the heat
of the sun that honey holds in its depth,

the current swept with caress that carries
electricities. We charge each other.

So, if it seems I am gone beyond reach,
remember you and I have contact still.

We are part of the same capacitor:
two bodies whose difference collects ardor.

That stock of touch is our habitation,
the hive we weave to save our ambered lives.

Michael Gushue runs the micro-press Beothuk Books and is co-founder of Poetry Mutual/Vrzhu Press. His work has appeared online and in print. His chapbooks are “Gathering Down Women,” from Pudding House Press, “Conrad” from Souvenir Spoon Books, and “Pachinko Mouth,” forthcoming from Plan B Press. He lives in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC.