Begin with A for agony.
True, other ages have had their pains – torture,
slavery, Holocaust, hunger, war, but this we feel deep
in our pockets. Behest – that’s like gifting. At the behest
of CEOs and bankers, masks and guns, we forget
the plea for simple words, ascend
the ladder from clear nature to leaky vessels parked
in virtual garages that do not keep us warm
at night, our language swelling like something trying for release
from pressure. Destiny
is a good one – an old term echoing
with new meaning, no more sense of design fulfilled, but now
a revelation of plundered grace, horizon scanned
for totem signs, no chance
that the great auk or saber-toothed cat will come back
to add their splendid paces to the stuttering cadence
of this rattletrap planet. Crystalline – how rivers flow
when humans stand at a halt, brought to heel
for a moment by their own exhaust, filter to the
blue-green daub of waves on canvases, little birds, iridescence
of a dragonfly’s wings, timing of a seedling’s
emergence from the dirt. So many
of the repurposed syllables are forgettable,
where meaning has leached out — Surge. Thrive.
Venture. Prevail. Prevail, the ultimate hollow win, all of them
corporate cartoons, soggy cartons into which
our mouths have stumbled, cardboard vaults
for our fortunes. And the last rasp of one that means
the same as always: Fool.
Gayle Reaves-King is a poet, editor, educator and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. She currently edits The Texas Monitor, an online government-watchdog publication.
Her chapbook Spectral Analysis was published by the Dallas Poets Community, and her poems have appeared in various journals and anthologies.
In four decades as a journalist, Reaves-King has reported from all over the world, for papers ranging from Fort Worth Weekly to the Washington Post and for magazines such the Texas Observer, D, and American Way. For the last several years she has edited The Best American Newspaper Narratives anthologies, published by UNT Press. She lives in Fort Worth.