Heart, Fire, Action

After the war, a stateless survivor of the
Holocaust named Karl Blitz looked out,
blinking, at a world in shambles. Like the
car crash survivor finding the shade of a tree
on the side of a highway: a good place to sit
and think, what next? He looked at this,
changed his name to Charles Bliss, and
moved to Australia. Charles thought often
of the speeches of Hitler, the films of
Goebbels, and decided to remake language
so that it could never again convince people
to perpetuate such indescribable cruelties.
Could not tell them that a bad thing was
good, or a good thing was bad. That death
was freedom, that violence was peace, that
work shall set you free. A language in
which everything meant one thing and one
thing only. He called it Blissymbols and
created it in his spare time while working at
a machine shop. Hieroglyphs, and every
word was matter, movement, or the value
we place upon it. Language without nuance.
I know what you’re thinking. A language
without poetry, then. If a poet means one thing
she must write something that means
two things. That’s what I thought, too, but
his symbol for “want” was a heart, next to a
flame, under an arrow. Heart, fire, action.

Holy Colors

Holy colors—deep autumn orange and
yellows and reds. I can imagine strapping a
crown of twigs to my head, and a mask for my
face, and dancing the round dances through
fields pregnant with corn and soybeans, until I
collapse roadside in spent, orgasmic satiation.
A dance of submission, of humble, beseeching
desperation in this insulating and forgotten
tract of Illinois. A place no one travelled unless
it was home, or else accidentally. And then to
make these offerings. To hang a deer from its
back legs, to open its throat, to quench the
thirst of the gods in the grass. To return a
stillborn child to the soft earth by the new
moon. To return to work in the hammer factory
or the field on Monday, while heaving Gaia
breathes into life the dawn’s fog, the distant
deer on the frost-flecked grass, the steam of the
Casey’s breakfast pizza, the colors of our
grandparents’ dens. So dark, that blood-black

John Singer Sargent Finds the Wind

Americans are always shocked that they
breathe differently abroad. In hindsight—it’s
so very obvious. Does the water from the tap
not taste different even on the coasts? That’s
not what Madame X was thinking as she
looked off to the side of that room. German air,
Swiss air. John Singer Sargent—and we know
not to trust a man with three names—famously
brought jars of Tuscan air with him when he
moved to London. It was the inspiration for
Dracula’s boxes of soil—Bram Stoker saw the
painter with his face buried in a jar, crying for
home. Later, when John asked, the winds
started. Waves of them, lashing the rain into
London, clearing the London Fog for a time.
He released himself and began a slow spiral
upward. How the crowds cheered, watching
the winds hold John Singer Sargent to her
breast so he could feed.

CRAIG FINLAY is a poet and librarian currently living in rural Oklahoma. His poems have appeared or will be appearing in numerous publications including, most recently, The Ilanot Review, Little Patuxent Review, Levee Magazine, and After Happy Hour Review. His debut collection, The Very Small Mammoths of Wrangel Island, is forthcoming from Urban Farmhouse Press.