Charles Borkhuis


Only in Metaphor May We Meet


a woman the size of an ant
is slowly climbing up my right toe

magnified 50x her eyes appear angry
have I changed that much or has she

turn to the next heat-seeking headline
“door-to-door combat at nursing home”

“bomb found inside talking doll”
“land mine awakens under child’s foot”

“greenland swallowed by the sea”
the tiny woman has just poked a hole

through the obituary page
and is crawling up my inner thigh


lost on a train of thought
I am speeding back to mother

spying me in the mirror’s eye
“you’d never do anything to make me

ashamed of you would you”
the alarm clock keeps ringing

in the suitcase overhead
the passengers signal me to open it

turn off the alarm for god’s sake
but I won’t it’s presence is needed

to repeat this moment indefinitely
as a reminder of its passing


who is alive and who is not
try matching words to what moves

the living dead dream too
of a life outside the silent bell

that keeps us walking in place
that keeps the stairs

from crumbling under our feet
and the stars from falling

into a puddle in our laps
keep that blissful little smile

from smearing across your winning face
and your breath from sticking to your ribs


don’t talk to me
of the lower body beast

material subjugation of the soul
by the sex organs

little more than kissing cousins
to the loquacious arsehole

speak rather of the body
possessed by the praying

mantis of the soul the history
of divine persecution in the name

of the idea that shall set you free
but all in good time all in good time


no one there when I look . . .
but turn away and they’re back

vacant stare from a seeing-eye dog
walking my shadow across a stone wall

the crossing guard blows an icy blast
and the world screeches inches from my shoe

school children freeze into position
as a thought-bubble floats above my head

“maybe we never truly touch
and in love remain unknown”

a cat crossing at the green smiles back
“only in metaphor may we meet”


enter where the words end
slow static in ghost letters

the number knows your name
but is bound to silence

identity’s inability to connect the dots
too much air between thoughts

dashed upon the blades of waves
the chromosomal alphabet

gone in a glance you drop off
the dozing face of the earth

and appear the day before you arrive
leaving no breath upon the glass

Charles Borkhuis’ seven books of poems include: Afterimage, Savoir-fear, Alpha Ruins, and Proximity (Stolen Arrows). His latest book Disappearing Acts is forthcoming from Chax Press in 2012. He was a finalist in the W.C. Williams Poetry Award and is a recipient of a Drama-Logue Award. He recently translated Franck André Jamme’s poems New Exercises (Wave Books) from the French. His plays include Sunspots and Hamlet’s Ghosts Perform Hamlet, published in the book Mouth of Shadows. Two of his radio plays that were aired over NPR, an interview, and two poetry readings are available on pennsound. His essays and reviews have been published in two books from the University of Alabama Press and numerous journals. He was a curator of the Segue Poetry Reading Series in NYC for 15 years.
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